The World's Center of Gravity

EU seeks to expand its military presence in Asia. Kramp-Karrenbauer visits US base in Guam in the Pacific, the potential launching pad for attacks on China.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/JAKARTA | | indonesien

BERLIN/BRUSSELS/JAKARTA (Own report) - The EU should significantly extend its foreign and military policy activities in the Asia Pacific region, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell demanded on his return from a visit of several days to Indonesia. In Jakarta, Borrell discussed prospects for intensifying cooperation with the country and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and announced: "We are exploring options to enhance EU’s maritime presence in the vast Indo-Pacific space." This is necessary because, through China's rise, the world's center of gravity is increasingly shifting away from the Atlantic to the Pacific. ”The history of mankind of the 21st century will be written in the Indo-Pacific area.” Just a few days earlier, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer became the first member of a German government to ever visit the Pacific Island of Guam, where the German frigate Bayern will dock during its Asia tour in the fall. Guam hosts major US military bases and is seen as a possible battlefield in a war between the USA and China.

Asia's Munich Security Conference

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell's South East Asia tour last week had to be considerably cut short due to the pandemic. Initially, Borrell had planned to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an event annually organized by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). It is at times seen as an Asian equivalent to the Munich Security Conference. Borrell would have had the opportunity to meet with US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin, but Singapore had to cancel the Shangri-La Dialogue on short notice due to a major resurgence of the pandemic. Borrell was prohibited from traveling to the Philippines. The trip had been under consideration, but the pandemic currently renders visits to that country impossible.[1] To avoid canceling his tour altogether, Borrell arrived in Indonesia's capital Jakarta on Tuesday last week for a four-day visit. He held talks with President Joko Widodo, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto, and met with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)[2] headquartered in Jakarta.

"No Longer in Europe"

Borrell's trip was mainly motivated by the fact that the global center of gravity is shifting to the Pacific, threatening to push Europe to the sidelines of global policy. That is the Europe that for centuries had been the global center of the technological and economic development as well as the center of the colonial powers' expansion throughout the entire world. The EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner highlighted this fact by noting that the Indo-Pacific creates 60% of global GDP and two-thirds of global growth.[3] The region is in fact now the venue of the world's largest free-trade alliance, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes ASEAN, China, South Korea, Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand. It represents nearly one third of the world's population and one third of the global economic output - with an unabated upward tendency. According to experts, the RCEP has the potential for setting global standards.[4] "The history of mankind of the 21st century will be written in the Indo-Pacific area," Borrell predicted in Jakarta. "The center of gravity of the world is no longer in the middle of Europe."[5] The EU must take this into account without delay.

Green Neo-Colonialism

Accordingly, Borrell - who complains that the EU, which "is self-absorbed and mainly focused on crises in our neighborhood" [6] - must show significantly more presence in Southeast Asia. On his current visit to Jakarta, the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner was plagued by home-made problems. For example, the dispute over the import of palm oil - the basis for biofuel - from Indonesia and Malaysia, has yet to be resolved. The EU Parliament had unequivocally ruled against using palm oil as fuel because of the often serious violations of social and ecological standards in the course of its production. In 2019, the EU, alleging inadmissible subventions, had also imposed import tariffs on Indonesian biodiesel. Jakarta, taking action against this at the World Trade Organization (WTO), complains of the European powers' "green neocolonialism." Borrell now finds it necessary to stress that the EU is "not anti-palm oil." The EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner also discussed the struggle against the pandemic with his interlocutors in Indonesia. In that country, as well as elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it is very carefully being registered, how the high-income western powers, including those in the EU, are buying up most of the available vaccines - and that this is why poorer countries are being left with little.[7] Indonesia, for example, acquired AstraZenica from India. However, since the breakdown in this supply line, the country is now fully dependent on Chinese vaccines.[8]

The EU as "Geopolitical Actor"

Upon his return, Borrell has been calling for renewed efforts to reach a free trade agreement with Indonesia - among ASEAN nations, the EU has currently concluded such an agreement only with Singapore and Vietnam - but particularly for more resolute foreign and military political activities in the region. "If we want to be a geopolitical actor, we also have to be perceived as a political and security actor in the region," declared the Foreign Affairs Commissioner - and announced: "We are exploring options to enhance EU’s maritime presence in the vast Indo-Pacific space."[9] French warships as well as warships from the United Kingdom - which continues to closely cooperate in military and foreign policy matters with the EU - have a growing presence with training cruises, as well as maneuvers in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[10] The Bundeswehr is increasing its efforts. It is sending fighter jets to Australia and a frigate to the Pacific.[11] In preparation, Germany's Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer visited South Korea at the end of May. The Frigate Bayern is scheduled - following joint maneuvers with Japanese forces - to temporarily take part in the surveillance of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea.

Potential Battlefield

Following talks in Seoul, Kramp-Karrenbauer flew on to become the first German minister to hold talks in Guam. Guam is an external territory of the United States, which houses US naval and air force bases. The Andersen Air Force Base, which Kramp-Karrenbauer visited, is considered not only one of the most important US military bases in the Asian-Pacific region, and as an important bridgehead for US reinforcements in time of an Asian war, but also as the runway for US long-range bombers. During its Asian cruise, the frigate Bayern is expected to visit Guam. Recently US military strategists have begun to pay the island more attention, because war games have shown that, in a wartime situation, China is in a position to destroy the runways on Guam and other installations with its numerous defensive missiles, thereby blocking US attacks on Chinese territory.[12] To still be able to launch attacks unimpeded, the new US military budget is earmarking substantial funds to provide the island with high-tech defense systems.[13] In other words, in late May, Kramp-Karrenbauer had visited a potential battlefield in the US' looming war against China - which had hardly been mentioned in German media outlets.

 

For more information on this subject see: Together Against China, The Price for Closing Ranks and our video column War against China.

 

[1] Stuart Lau: China Direct: Borrell's Asia trip. politico.eu 20.05.2021.

[2] ASEAN comprises five countries of mainland Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar) and five countries of the Malay Peninsula and the Southeast Asian islands (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines).

[3] Josep Borrell: Why I went to Jakarta and why the Indo-Pacific matters for Europe. eeas.europa.eu 05.06.2021.

[4] See also "A Wake-Up Call for Europe".

[5] Stuart Lau: China Direct: Irish flirtations. politico.eu 03.06.2021.

[6] Josep Borrell: Why I went to Jakarta and why the Indo-Pacific matters for Europe. eeas.europa.eu 05.06.2021.

[7] I Nyoman Sutarsa: Indonesia's vaccine campaign hits speed bumps. eastasiaforum.org 15.05.2021.

[8] See also Die Welt impfen (III).

[9] Josep Borrell: Why I went to Jakarta and why the Indo-Pacific matters for Europe. eeas.europa.eu 05.06.2021.

[10] See also Manöver in Ostasien.

[11] See also Die neue deutsche Kanonenbootpolitik (III).

[12] Kathy Gilsinan: How the U.S. Could Lose a War With China. theatlantic.com 25.07.2019.

[13] Department of Defense Press Briefing on the President's Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget for the Missile Defense Agency. defense.gov 28.05.2021.