The EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy

Brussels insists on increased EU military presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Washington and London boost Australia's arms buildup against China.

BERLIN/BRUSSELS | | china

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - The EU Commission presents its new Indo-Pacific strategy, urging EU member states to increase their military presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Union must not only expand its economic relations in the region - particularly with adversaries of China - but seek to conduct more port calls and joint exercises with the riparian countries, according to the paper presented yesterday in Brussels. The EU should also define "Maritime Areas of Interest in the Indo-Pacific" and cooperate particularly closely - also militarily - with its regional partners. This is, in fact, the purpose of the frigate Bayern's current Asia-Pacific cruise. It will soon arrive in Australia that has just concluded a new anti-China pact with the USA and the United Kingdom. The AUKUS Pact provides Australia, Berlin's military cooperation partner, with nuclear submarines for operations against China. This also escalates internal Western conflicts: Canberra has cancelled a €56 billion procurement contract with Paris.

From East Africa to the Pacific Islands

In its "Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific" paper, published yesterday, the EU Commission calls for the resolute expansion of relations to the riparian countries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The region is home to three-fifths of the world’s population, produces 60% of global GDP, the paper notes.[1] This is why the EU intends to intensify its relations with the region. For the EU member states, the Indian Ocean is a "gateway," closer cooperation with its riparian countries is desired. The EU also seeks closer cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the island states in the Pacific Ocean. The "overseas countries and territories" in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, under the control of EU member states are also playing an important role. These are territories dominated by France, some of which have been officially designated by the United Nations as areas to be decolonized. Independence movements against French colonial rule are still active in some of them.[2] According to the strategy paper, the EU intends to cooperate with China in line with its own interests, such as in the economic field.

Opposing China

Above all however, the new Indo-Pacific strategy is aimed at positioning the EU at the Indian and Pacific Oceans in opposition to the People's Republic of China. Free trade agreements are to be concluded with countries, which are either already adversaries of China, like Australia and India, or which the EU hopes to win over to its side in the power struggle against China, such as New Zealand and Indonesia. Brussels seeks "Digital Partnership Agreements" with Japan, South Korea and Singapore and to strengthen the digital cooperation with India. The EU Commission is interested in comprehensive cooperation with of the "QUAD" pact ("Quadrilateral Security Dialogue") countries, an alliance based on its common rivalry with China, comprising the USA, Japan, Australia and India.[3] The paper also mentions "Green Alliances" and cooperation in research and innovation and calls for stepping up implementation of the "Connectivity Partnerships" particularly with Japan and India. They should be extended to ASEAN countries and possibly the Western Indian Ocean - i.e., several African countries. The Commission wants to intensify its economic relations with Taiwan.

"Maritime Areas of Interest"

The Indo-Pacific strategy is devoting extensive attention to expanding military cooperation. Brussels will, from now on, not only deploy more military advisorsto EU delegations in the Asia and the Pacific region, but plans also to expand the so-called Framework Participation Agreements, which enable the respective participating countries to become involved in joint "crisis operations." Under such an agreement, South Korea sent a warship to participate in the EU's "Operation Atalanta" off the Horn of Africa in 2017. Framework Participation Agreements exist already with Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam. The EU intends to intensify its naval presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and seeks to expand its port calls and joint maneuvers. One example is the current Asian-Pacific cruse of the frigate Bayern, which left the harbor of Pakistan's metropolis Karachi yesterday on its way to the US military base in the middle of the Indian Ocean at Diego Garcia - following joint maneuvers with a number of bordering states. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) In particular, the EU will assess the opportunity of establishing "Maritime Areas of Interest in the Indo-Pacific" and engage with riparian partners.

Nuclear Submarines and Cruise Missiles

Australia, where the Bayern is headed, following a refueling stopover at Diego Garcia, has just concluded a new pact with the United States and Great Britain - targeting China. The AUKUS Defense Pact (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States), for the time being, is focused on arming Australia. The country's Navy will be equipped with nuclear submarines - making Australia, the seventh country in the world to have nuclear submarines, alongside the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and India. They are faster than diesel-powered submarines, have a much larger radius of action, and offer considerable advantages for warfare operations in the enormous expanses of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Within the framework of the AUKUS Pact, the three participating countries seek also to work closely in the domains of cyberspace and artificial intelligence (AI), both having significant implications for warfare of the future. Canberra will also be receiving Tomahawk cruise missiles, permitting it to attack long-range targets. This significantly strengthens the western powers' potential for aggression - as well as demonstrating just how high military tensions could rapidly escalate in this region, where the EU seeks to operate more in the future.

Inner-Western Rivalries

Simultaneously, the AUKUS Pact has led to acrimonious tensions within the West. to procure the nuclear submarines, Australia had to cancel a contract signed with France back in 2016, for 12 diesel-powered submarines. Paris, therefore, loses a €56 billion contract to the British-US American competition. It has been reported that, particularly piquant in this affair, is the fact that "at the time, France had been pressured by the USA not to sell the Barracuda nuclear-powered submarines to Australia,"[5] which made the time-consuming development of a diesel-electric-powered submarine necessary. Canberra, on the other hand, used this delay as an opportunity to cancel the contract with Paris, while Washington, from its side, provides nuclear-propulsion technology, which the French were not allowed to build into the submarines in 2016. Yesterday, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian angrily called it a "stab in the back" and announced that "this is not the end of this story for our government."[6] This extremely voluminous submarine deal was seen as the central element to the current upswing in French-Australian military cooperation.

 

[1] These quotes and those that follow are from: "European Commission: The EU strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council." JOIN(2021) 24 final. Brussels, 16.09.2021.

[2] The United Nations lists, among others, New Caledonia and French Polynesia as "Non-Self-Governing Territories," that should be decolonized. Mayotte had once belonged to the Comoros Islands, but was separated from them, with flimsy excuses, in the course of the decolonization from France. The Comoros are still demanding the return of the island, to no avail. On New Caledonia and French Polynesia, anti-colonial independence movements are fighting for their liberation from French colonial rule.

[3] See also Gemeinsam gegen China.

[4] See also Illegally Occupied Islands and "Eine gewisse Doppelmoral".

[5], [6] Friederike Böge, Jochen Buchsteiner, Till Fähnders, Thomas Gutschker, Majid Sattar, Michaela Wiegel: Ein Deal entzweit den Westen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.09.2021.