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The end of Germany’s self-confined foreign policy

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When Germany’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock took office in December 2021, there was careful optimism in Berlin that she would embody a more assertive German foreign policy.

Germany’s foreign policy has often been criticized as too restrained and reluctant in relation to its economic weight and critical calls by other nations for more engagement have indicated increased expectations for actions from Germany in global affairs. While there have been some episodes of a more active role by Germany in the international arena, for instance during the financial crisis in 2010, the refugee crisis in 2015, and the negotiations of the Iran nuclear deal, Bearbock’s predecessors in the Foreign Ministry remained largely unnoticeable on the global stage and their foreign policy was mostly a continuation of Germany’s low profile foreign policy.

Despite the careful optimism that Baerbock might stand for a more disruptive and assertive German foreign policy, it seemed doubtful whether she would be able to overcome the two major causes for Germany’s somewhat self-confined foreign policy: 1. Germany’s extreme dependence on international trade (including natural resources) and 2. Germany’s historic reluctance to engage in military interventions. These two factors are largely responsible for the gap between Germany’s value-orientated foreign policy principles as well as objectives and its actual actions to implement such, especially in relation to human rights violations, autocrats, and aggressors.

Now, however, it seems that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has abruptly eradicated one of the two causes for Germany’s self-confined foreign policy. Within a matter of two days, Germany’s stance on international security policy changed completely. On 26 February, the German Defence Ministry declared that, despite its historic position against the supply of arms to conflict zones, it would deliver anti-tank systems and Stinger air defence systems to Ukraine.

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The day after that in an extraordinary parliamentary session, Olaf Scholz announced that Germany, after years of debates, will raise its military expenditure to 2% of its GDP (making it Europe’s top spender on defence) and establish an extra 100-billion-euro fund for investments into the Bundeswehr in order to become Europe’s most modern and effective army. The German chancellor also pledged to expand Germany’s troop presence in Lithuania and to provide German air defence systems to Eastern European NATO members.

These movements represent a major break with Germany’s self-perception of its role in the world and with the depictions of Germany as a ‘reluctant’ or ‘civilian’ power that is not comfortable with the pursuance of a more assertive role in foreign policy, mainly attributed to a political and public culture that has roots in the legacy of post-war pacifism.

The apparent re-consideration in Germany about the role of military means in foreign policy, Annalena Baerbock’s fresh take on Germany’s objectives, and the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine will significantly shape German foreign policy in the coming years. This does not necessarily mean that Germany’s foreign policy will be totally different from now on, but it could represent the beginning of a new era of a less self-confined foreign policy more willing to put its value-orientated foreign policy objectives into actions and as such more assertive to confront adversaries.

While Germany’s historic responsibility and preference to realize foreign policy objectives through economic cooperation and multilateral institutions with the resort to military means being only admissible in exceptional situations will continue to be the norm, there will be less stigma around the Bundeswehr and more space for hard power elements in German foreign policy debates and policies.

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Yet, the second cause for Germany’s self-confined foreign policy, the country’s extreme dependence on international trade (as the world’s third-largest exporter and importer), is going to continue to put a heavy hand on the country’s decision makers when choosing foreign policy options. But, even here the painful realisation by Germany of being trapped in its reliance on Russian gas and therefore limited in its ability to sanction Russia in response to the invasion in Ukraine might be a learning experience leading to the reconsideration of its dependence on international trade in general, especially when it comes to its economy’s extreme reliance on exports to China, which one day might as well become a problem.

Via MD

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Analysis

Mainland Chinese Forces Launch ‘Blockade’ Drills Around Taiwan: A Show of Force or a Warning?

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Introduction

In a move that has sent ripples across the Taiwan Strait, mainland Chinese forces have begun conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan, just three days after the inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as the new Taiwanese leader. The drills, which involve the PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces, are aimed at testing joint combat capabilities and have been seen as a show of force by Beijing. This development comes on the heels of Lai’s first speech as Taiwanese leader, which was met with fury in Beijing. In this article, we will delve into the details of the drills, the context in which they are taking place, and what they might mean for the future of Taiwan-China relations.

The Drills: A Display of Military Might

The drills, which are scheduled to last for two days, are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and involve a range of military assets, including warships, fighter jets, and missile systems. The exercises are designed to test the PLA’s ability to blockade Taiwan, a move that would effectively cut off the island from the rest of the world. The drills are being seen as a demonstration of the PLA’s military might and its ability to project power in the region.

The Context: Lai’s Inauguration and Beijing’s Fury

The drills come just three days after William Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan. Lai, who is known for his pro-independence stance, used his inaugural speech to reiterate his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy. The speech was met with fury in Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland. Lai’s speech was seen as a provocation by Beijing, which has long been wary of Taiwan’s moves towards independence.

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Beijing’s Response: A Warning or a Threat?

The drills can be seen as a response to Lai’s speech and a warning to Taiwan not to pursue its independence agenda. Beijing has long used military exercises as a way to signal its displeasure with Taiwan’s actions, and the current drills are no exception. However, the scale and scope of the exercises suggest that Beijing may be going beyond a simple warning and is instead making a more explicit threat.

Implications for Taiwan-China Relations

The drills have significant implications for Taiwan-China relations, which have been tense for decades. The exercises are a reminder of the military imbalance between Taiwan and China, with the PLA boasting a significantly larger and better-equipped military. The drills also underscore the risks of a military conflict between Taiwan and China, which would have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world.

Regional Reactions

The drills have drawn reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China. The United States, which has a long-standing commitment to Taiwan’s defence, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the drills. Japan and South Korea, both of which have their territorial disputes with China, have also expressed concern about the exercises.

Conclusion

The “blockade” drills conducted by mainland Chinese forces around Taiwan are a significant development in the ongoing tensions between Taiwan and China. While the drills can be seen as a show of force by Beijing, they also underscore the risks of a military conflict between the two sides. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how Taiwan and China will navigate their complex and often fraught relationship.

Timeline of Events

  • May 20, 2024: William Lai Ching-te is inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan.
  • May 20, 2024: Lai delivers his inaugural speech, reiterating his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
  • May 23, 2024: Mainland Chinese forces begin conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • May 23, 2024: The drills draw reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
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Key Players

  • William Lai Ching-te: The new leader of Taiwan, known for his pro-independence stance.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA): The military forces of mainland China, which are conducting the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • The United States: A long-standing ally of Taiwan, which has expressed concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
  • Japan and South Korea: Countries in the region that have their own territorial disputes with China and have expressed concern about the exercises.

Key Terms

  • Blockade: A military tactic in which a country’s ports or borders are closed off to prevent the movement of goods or people.
  • Joint combat capabilities: The ability of different branches of the military to work together seamlessly in combat situations.
  • PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces: The different branches of the People’s Liberation Army, which are participating in the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.

Sources

  • “Mainland Chinese forces start ‘blockade’ drills around Taiwan 3 days after Lai speech.” South China Morning Post, May 23, 2024.
  • “Taiwan’s new leader William Lai vows to defend democracy and sovereignty.” BBC News, May 20, 2024.
  • “China launches military drills around Taiwan in response to new leader’s inauguration.” The Guardian, May 23, 2024.
  • “US expresses concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Reuters, May 23, 2024.
  • “Japan and South Korea express concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Nikkei Asia, May 23, 2024.
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Analysis

Putin Emphasizes the Crucial role of China in Russian Foreign Policy and Trade.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s role in global politics and its close relationship with Moscow, calling it of “premier importance” in Russian foreign policy. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to maintain regional stability and promote peaceful conflict resolution. He also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between the two countries, which has strengthened significantly in recent years.

The comments come as Putin prepares to visit China for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, where he is expected to discuss trade and economic ties between the two nations. China is Russia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching a record high of $108 billion in 2018. Both countries have also been working together on major infrastructure projects, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Northern Sea Route.

Putin’s remarks reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy, as Moscow seeks to strengthen its ties with Beijing amid strained relations with the West. The two countries share a common interest in challenging US global dominance and promoting a multipolar world order.

Putin’s Praise for China’s Peace Efforts

Putin praises China's peace efforts in an interview, emphasizing its importance in Russian foreign policy and trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s peace efforts in an interview with Xinhua, highlighting the country’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Russia. Putin commended Beijing’s commitment to resolving global issues through peaceful means, citing its role in the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Syrian conflict.

Putin also emphasized the importance of the partnership between Russia and China in promoting regional and global stability. He noted that the two countries share similar views on many international issues, including the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in maintaining peace and security.

The Russian leader’s comments come amid growing tensions between China and the United States, as well as concerns over Beijing’s military expansion in the South China Sea. However, Putin’s remarks suggest that Russia sees China as a key partner in its foreign policy objectives, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation.

Overall, Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, and highlights China’s growing influence in global affairs.

Strategic Partnership Between Russia and China

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Moscow, citing the two countries’ close cooperation in both trade and politics. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region, and emphasised the importance of China in Russian foreign policy.

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Trade Relations

The trade relationship between Russia and China has grown rapidly over the past decade, with bilateral trade reaching $108 billion in 2020. In recent years, the two countries have signed a number of major agreements to deepen economic ties, including a $400 billion deal to supply Russian natural gas to China over 30 years.

Political Alliances

Beyond economic cooperation, Russia and China have also formed close political alliances in recent years. The two countries have worked together to promote a multipolar world order and to counterbalance what they see as US dominance in global affairs. In addition, Russia and China have strengthened their military ties, conducting joint military exercises and signing a number of defence agreements.

Overall, Putin’s comments reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy. As the two countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership, it is likely that their cooperation will extend to new areas, including technology, energy, and infrastructure.

China’s Role in Russian Foreign Policy

Putin emphasizes China's pivotal role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

China has become an important partner for Russia in terms of foreign policy and trade. In an interview with Xinhua, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China’s efforts to maintain peace and stability in the world. Putin also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between Russia and China, which he believes is a key factor in maintaining global security.

The two countries have been working together on a number of initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The BRI is a massive infrastructure project that aims to connect China with Europe and other parts of Asia through a network of roads, railways, and ports. Russia has been a key partner in this project, with plans to build a high-speed railway between Moscow and Beijing.

In addition to the BRI, Russia and China have also been working closely together in the SCO, which is a regional security organisation that includes other countries such as India, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. The two countries have been working together to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism in the region.

Overall, China’s role in Russian foreign policy has become increasingly important in recent years. The two countries share a common vision for a multipolar world, and their partnership has helped to counterbalance the influence of the United States and other Western countries.

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Future Prospects for Sino-Russian Cooperation

Putin emphasizes China's key role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

As Putin highlighted in his interview with Xinhua, the strategic partnership between China and Russia has reached an unprecedented level. This partnership has been strengthened by the two countries’ shared commitment to promoting peace and stability in the world.

One area where Sino-Russian cooperation is expected to continue growing is in the field of trade. The two countries have set a target of reaching $200 billion in bilateral trade by 2024, up from $108 billion in 2018. To achieve this goal, both sides have been actively promoting investment and trade in key sectors such as energy, agriculture, and technology.

Another area of cooperation is in the field of international affairs. China and Russia have been working closely together to promote multilateralism and uphold the principles of the UN Charter. They have also been coordinating their efforts to address global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.

In addition, the two countries have been deepening their cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This has been facilitated by initiatives such as the China-Russia Year of Media Exchange and the China-Russia Youth Friendly Exchange Year.

Overall, the future prospects for Sino-Russian cooperation are promising, as both countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership and work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the world.

Implications for International Relations

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts and strategic partnership with Russia has significant implications for international relations. The strong relationship between the two countries could potentially shift the balance of power in the world, with China’s growing influence being a key factor.

The strategic partnership between Russia and China has already had an impact on the world stage, with the two countries working together on issues such as Syria and North Korea. This partnership could also have an impact on the global economy, with the two countries working to increase trade and investment.

Furthermore, the partnership between Russia and China could have implications for other countries, particularly those in the West. As Russia and China continue to strengthen their relationship, it could lead to a shift in global alliances and a realignment of power.

Overall, Putin’s comments highlight the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy and trade. As the two countries continue to work together, the implications for international relations could be significant, potentially leading to a shift in the global balance of power.

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Analysis

The UN Existence Heralds Failure: An Analysis in the Backdrop of Gaza

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flags of countries in front of the united nations office at geneva

Introduction

The United Nations (UN), an organization founded in the aftermath of World War II with the noble aim of maintaining international peace and security, has long been hailed as the beacon of global cooperation and diplomacy. However, in the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the effectiveness and relevance of the UN have come under intense scrutiny. As the world grapples with the escalating tensions and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region, it is crucial to examine the role of the UN and its ability to fulfill its core mandate.

The Failure of the UN in Gaza

The conflict in Gaza, which has been raging for decades, has once again erupted into a full-blown crisis, with devastating consequences for the civilian population. Despite the UN’s presence and its various resolutions and interventions, the situation on the ground has only worsened, raising questions about the organization’s ability to effectively address complex geopolitical conflicts.

Ineffective Conflict Resolution Efforts

The UN’s efforts to mediate and resolve the conflict in Gaza have been largely ineffective. Despite numerous ceasefire agreements and resolutions condemning the violence, the cycle of violence continues unabated. The inability of the UN to enforce its own resolutions and hold the parties accountable has only served to embolden the belligerents and perpetuate the conflict.

Lack of Impartiality and Neutrality

The perception of the UN as an impartial and neutral arbiter in the conflict has been severely undermined. The organization’s perceived bias towards one side or the other has eroded its credibility and trust among the parties involved, making it increasingly difficult for the UN to play a constructive role in the conflict resolution process.

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Humanitarian Crisis and the UN’s Response

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza, marked by widespread poverty, lack of access to basic services, and the devastating impact of the conflict on the civilian population, has been a major concern. However, the UN’s response has been criticized as inadequate and slow, failing to provide the necessary aid and support to alleviate the suffering of the people.

The Geopolitical Dynamics and the UN’s Limitations

The conflict in Gaza is deeply rooted in the complex geopolitical dynamics of the region, involving various state and non-state actors with competing interests and agendas. The UN’s ability to navigate these intricate power dynamics and effectively address the underlying causes of the conflict has been severely constrained.

The Role of Veto Power and Geopolitical Interests

The UN Security Council, the primary body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, has been hampered by the veto power wielded by its permanent members. This has allowed powerful nations to block or dilute resolutions that may go against their geopolitical interests, undermining the UN’s ability to take decisive action in the face of crises like the one in Gaza.

The Influence of Regional Powers and Proxy Conflicts

The conflict in Gaza has also become a proxy battleground for regional powers, with countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey vying for influence and pursuing their own strategic objectives. The UN’s limited ability to navigate these complex regional dynamics and broker meaningful compromises has further diminished its effectiveness in resolving the conflict.

The Erosion of the UN’s Credibility and Legitimacy

The perceived failure of the UN in addressing the crisis in Gaza has led to a growing skepticism and erosion of the organization’s credibility and legitimacy among the global community.

Criticism from the International Community

The UN has faced widespread criticism from the international community, including member states, civil society organizations, and the general public, for its perceived inaction and ineffectiveness in the face of the Gaza crisis. This criticism has undermined the UN’s standing as a trusted and respected global institution.

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The Decline of the UN’s Moral Authority

The UN’s inability to uphold its own principles of human rights, international law, and the protection of civilians has led to a decline in its moral authority. This has further eroded the organization’s credibility and its ability to serve as a moral compass for the international community.

The Way Forward: Reforming the UN

In light of the UN’s perceived failures in the Gaza conflict, it is clear that the organization must undergo significant reforms to regain its relevance and effectiveness in addressing global challenges.

Strengthening the UN’s Conflict Resolution Mechanisms

The UN must strengthen its conflict resolution mechanisms, including the ability to enforce its own resolutions and hold parties accountable for violations. This may require a review of the Security Council’s structure and decision-making processes, as well as the development of more robust peacekeeping and mediation capabilities.

Enhancing Impartiality and Neutrality

The UN must work to enhance its perceived impartiality and neutrality in conflict situations, ensuring that its actions and decisions are not unduly influenced by the geopolitical interests of its member states. This may involve reforms to the UN’s governance structure and decision-making processes, as well as a renewed commitment to upholding the organization’s core principles and values.

Improving Humanitarian Response and Aid Delivery

The UN must also improve its humanitarian response and aid delivery mechanisms to effectively address the pressing needs of civilian populations affected by conflicts like the one in Gaza. This may require increased funding, better coordination with local and international aid organizations, and a more proactive and responsive approach to addressing the evolving humanitarian crises.

Conclusion

The crisis in Gaza has exposed the limitations and failures of the United Nations, an organization that was once hailed as the guardian of global peace and security. The inability of the UN to effectively address the conflict and alleviate the suffering of the civilian population has raised serious questions about the organization’s relevance and credibility in the 21st century.

As the world grapples with the ongoing crisis in Gaza and other complex global challenges, it is clear that the UN must undergo significant reforms to regain its standing and fulfill its core mandate. This will require a renewed commitment to conflict resolution, impartiality, and humanitarian response, as well as a willingness to confront the geopolitical dynamics that have undermined the organization’s effectiveness.

Only through a comprehensive reform process and a steadfast dedication to the principles of international cooperation and human rights can the United Nations hope to reclaim its role as a beacon of hope and a force for positive change in the world.

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