Friday News Roundup — April 29, 2022
Needed Leadership; Escalation beyond Donbas; Nuclear Saber Rattling; Regional Crises around the World; Japan’s Military Normalization post-Ukraine
Greetings to you from Washington, D.C. It’s been a busy week — both in general and for team CSPC. Yesterday’s surprising negative GDP numbers were a reminder of the post-pandemic environment, supply chain difficulties, and wartime disruption. While many economists said that it was too soon to cry “stagflation”, it adds to perceptions of economic difficulty, despite plenty of available jobs. Inside the Beltway — and likely distant from voters’ immediate concerns — much attention was paid to recordings of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others discussing Trump and the January 6th insurrection. The GOP and Mar-a-Lago have closed ranks around McCarthy as their focus remains on a midterm majority, 2024, and a speakership, respectively. On the Hill, the Biden administration’s requests for $33 billion for Ukraine and $10 billion for Covid relief have slowed — Title 42 immigation controversies have not helped — and it increasingly looks like the Bipartisan Innovation Act conference process (the various competition and “China bills”) could drag on into the summer. Still, Congress did approve Lend-Lease for Ukraine, ironically using a tool that kept the Soviet Union fighting in World War II to now defeat Moscow.
For us at CSPC, it was a busy stretch as well, as since last week we have welcomed our Presidential Fellows from their college and university campuses from across America and around the world back to D.C. for the first time since autumn of 2019. On Tuesday, we also returned to hosting our annual awards dinner, this year honoring Senators Lisa Murkowski and Angus King with our Publius Award for their bipartisan leadership on matters from national security to political reform. In the spirit of the founders, they put nation ahead of party.
In the media this week, Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs director, Joshua C. Huminski, reviewed “Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition.” Edited by Andrew C. Monaghan, the book brings together a series of essays that demonstrate it’s not all about President Vladimir Putin and that Russia does indeed have plans, Ukraine notwithstanding.
Last week Joshua also reviewed Kevin Rudd’s new book “The Avoidable War”, where the former prime minister of Australia offers an welcome summary of China’s interests and Xi Jinping Thought, but comes up short with his model of “managed strategic competition”, which expects far too much trust from both Beijing and Washington. For the Hill, he penned an op-ed on the need for the West to settle in for a longer war in Ukraine than initially expected, and, turning to space, he also wrote about the role of commercial space in the war in Ukraine for SpaceNews. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated the value and utility of commercial space in conflicts, but also shows the closer coordination and cooperation is necessary.
In this week’s roundup, Dan reflects on a week with lessons on leadership from both great Senators and future public servants. Wes looks at how Russia might expand or escalate the conflict over Ukraine, while Joshua covers the latest nuclear saber rattling. Ethan examines beyond the war in Ukraine to the various regional geopolitical tensions evolving amidst greater strategic competition. Hidetoshi focuses specifically on Japan’s evolving military normalization, and how that is affected by the invasion of Ukraine. As always, we wrap with news you may have missed.
Visions of Leadership, and Hope for an Uncertain Future
A world seemingly hurtling towards war and a nation increasingly in conflict with itself hardly inspire hope. The headlines we see each day and the partisan punditry on the airwaves feeds this, and social media bubbles try to tell us that we have more to fear than gain from collaboration, cooperation, and compromise with our fellow Americans. With little trust in our institutions and each other, it is easy to continue in a 2020 mindset, ignoring the global crises that demand our unity.
With crises coming one-after-the-other and deadlock at home, leadership is what can help to break out of this cycle. This week, I had the opportunity to see demonstrations of leadership that can inspire hope, even in these times.
First, this week at CSPC, we honored Senators Lisa Murkowski and Angus King for their bold, bipartisan leadership. They spoke of the challenges they have faced from partisans and political professionals, simply for their willingness to cooperate across the aisle and deliver common sense solutions rather than what is demanded by partisan platforms. While we may have had to go to the far corners of the country to find such leaders, their states also have been at the forefront of the various electoral reforms — ranked choice voting, open primaries, etc. — than can break the incentive structure that rewards radical partisanship.
Furthermore, as we honored the Senators, back in-person, we were also joined by our Presidential Fellows. From their schools in the United States and countries around the world, they are the leaders and public servants of tomorrow. In hearing their conversations and looking through their excellent research papers, they are focused on addressing real challenges, not the latest political kayfabe. While they may be inheriting many unresolved crises, they are demonstrating innovative thinking on everything from tech policy and autonomous weapons to how leaders communicate with the public and the future of democratic systems.
Finally, I had the opportunity this week to speak to the local leaders participating in rural leadership programs run by the University of Arizona and University of Maryland. These are folks in their communities seeking to solve real problems, and also addressing a political environment where pundits at home and meddlers abroad seek to drive wedges between rural and urban America. Why not, after all? For Putin and Xi, it is best to tear apart the sources of American strength — agriculture, innovation, finance, and entertainment — rather than bring our strengths together. For anchors and pundits in studios in New York and Los Angeles, there are million dollar contracts to rail against “the elites”. (There is quite a bit of profit in anger that is also projection.) These leaders, in their communities, understand the importance of delivering results, rather than holding to the party talking points. However, they also see how national partisanship increasingly colors local politics.
What was refreshing about all of these circumstances is that we see leadership first hand, even when it is lacking in the day-to-day coverage. The incentives of our system too often discourage such leadership, and hewing to the tribe of our partisanship can also be far more comfortable. Sure we must fix those incentives, but we must also continue to encourage, nurture, and reward leadership at every stage and level we find it.
As its Donbas Offensive Continues, Russia Threatens to Expand the Scope of its Ire
While Russia’s new April offensive in Donbas has continued with only localized successes to date, Moscow has begun to dial up any pressure it can muster on other states in the region. Puzzling news coming from the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria of attacks on separatist government buildings has alarmed Chisinau and other capitals with the prospect that they may be unable to avoid becoming embroiled in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On April 27, Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom announced that it had “completely suspended” the supply of gas to Polish and Bulgarian customers in response to the refusal by Sofia and Warsaw to pay for their gas deliveries in rubles, which Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov described as “blackmail.” While the European Union urged member states and companies within the bloc to also refuse to pay Russia in rubles for gas deliveries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó was quick to insist that Hungarian gas deliveries through Bulgaria would not be disrupted by the cutoff. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on April 25 that European consensus on an embargo on Russian energy was still distant. While Polish authorities have assured citizens that Poland’s reserves will allow the country to avoid significant energy disruptions until the fall, Bulgarian industrial customers (the most significant users of gas in Bulgaria) could face disruptions until the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria comes online next winter.
In a speech to legislators in St. Petersburg, President Putin declared that countries who “meddle” in Ukraine could expect a “lightning-quick” response from Russia utilizing tools or weapons that “no one else can boast of having,” a tacit reference to Russia’s advanced nuclear delivery systems, hypersonic or otherwise. In a similar vein, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that it had targeted and destroyed a large amount of Western-delivered arms in the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia. Recent Russian strikes on critical railroad infrastructure in Western Ukraine used to transport Western materiel aid into Ukraine has also elevated the risk of direct contact between the Russian armed forces and Western states supporting Ukraine.
April 22 comments from General Rustem Minnekayev, the deputy head of the Russian Central Military District, suggested that Russia could seek to control Ukraine’s southwestern coast, which would allow Russian forces easier access to the breakaway region of Transnistria. Transnistria, whose separatist government officially calls itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, was split from the rest of Moldova in a 1992 conflict by Russian-speaking militants with direct support from the remains of the Soviet, and then Russian, military. At the time, the external reaction to Minnekayev’s public ruminations was one of skepticism, as Russian forces had previously struggled and failed to take the cities of Mikolaiv and Odesa on Ukraine’s south-western coastline near Moldova, and do not currently have the necessary forces available to mount an offensive simultaneously with the one in Donbas.
On April 25 and 26, explosions rocked the Transnistrian Ministry of State Security headquarters and radio towers used to transmit Russian media in the territory. The Kremlin, who still maintains a force of about 1,500 “peacekeepers” in Transnistria, called the attacks a “provocation” by neighboring Ukrainians who want to seize control of the Moldovan breakaway region. Transnistrian authorities said that the perpetrators of the attacks were connected with and fled to Ukraine, and the Transnistrian military cancelled its May 9 Victory Day parade. The Moldovan government also placed its forces on high alert after Moldovan President Maia Sandu called a special security council meeting. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the attacks were instigated by Russia to destabilize Moldova. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States was still monitoring the situation and had not definitively identified the party responsible for the attacks. Ukrainian authorities also reported on April 27 that Russian forces had struck a bridge near the town of Zatoka which provides the only rail and road links across the Dnieper estuary south of Odesa, potentially logistically isolating the southern Budjak region which borders Moldova.
While it is unclear whether Russian forces are seeking to utilize confusion in Transnistria to support a new offensive in Southern Ukraine or if events in the breakaway region indicate the war could be spreading beyond Ukraine’s battlefields, the risk of international complications and escalation of Russia’s war has been heightened. Especially with the backdrop of stiffening Russian economic and rhetorical pressure on European and Western governments, events of the past week have raised fears of the escalation of hostilities in central and southern European capitals.
Satan II and the Specter of Nuclear War
Joshua C Huminski
On 20 April, Russia conducted a test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat (NATO designation, Satan 2). Moscow hyperbolically boasted that the heavy ICBM could strike any target in the world and evade any existing and future anti-ballistic missile system. Commenting on the launch, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin said, “This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security in the face of external threats, and will provide food for thought to those who in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric try to threaten our country.”
First tested in December 2017, this latest launch saw the Satan 2 lift off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region, striking a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula, some 3,500 miles away. The “heavy” ICBM weighs in at 220 tons and has a longer range that would allow it to fly over either pole to strike targets, according to Putin’s announcement in 2018. External analysis suggests it could field ten warheads and possibly a hypersonic glide vehicle, but is more of an evolutionary step, rather than something revolutionary in Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
On purely technical terms, the Satan 2 changes little in the nuclear calculus. Russia has long possessed a substantial number of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and intermediate range missiles capable of fielding nuclear warheads. With the imposition of wide-ranging sanctions against Russia’s economy and nearly all of its industries following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, it remains to be seen whether this missile will go into widespread production.
What is of greater concern is, however, the increasingly hostile rhetoric and the active discussion in both Washington and Moscow of the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. Throughout the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin warned the West of consequences, should it intervene on behalf of Kyiv. At the beginning of the war, Putin said the West risked retaliation “the likes of which you have never seen in history”.
The risks of uncontrolled escalation are very much on the minds of the Administration. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said “The escalation risk with a nuclear power is severe, and it is a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have seen over the years. The American president, Joe Biden, has to take that responsibility extremely seriously.” Thus, the White House has been keen to calibrate the level of aid and support to Kyiv without crossing an unclear red-line for Moscow. For example, the introduction of NATO or U.S. troops into Ukraine is, naturally, a clear red-line and one that could prompt severe escalation.
While much of Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling has been dismissed as just that, there is increasing concern that the poor performance of Russia’s military may prompt the Kremlin to introduce nuclear weapons into the Ukraine equation. In the event that this does happen, this would be the first time since 1945, and the West’s response would be decidedly unclear.
Putin’s rhetoric is not alone, however. Seth Cropsey, a former Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting that “The U.S. Should Show it Can Win a Nuclear War”. He argues that “The Kremlin is resurrecting the arcane art of nuclear war fighting. These weapons have a military purpose. They also have a political one. The U.S. should reframe its thinking in kind.” While he is not wrong on either account, his argument falls flat when he writes, “The ability to win is the key.” There are very few realities where anyone wins a nuclear war. The introduction of tactical nuclear weapons is merely the first step on the escalatory ladder to global nuclear war.
While Cropsey does not suggest the United States use nuclear weapons in response to a Russian introduction of those weapons, targeting Russia’s ballistic missile submarines or second-strike capabilities will almost assuredly see the expansion of the conflict. Introducing nuclear weapons back onto American naval vessels is certainly a signal, but one that would unlikely be welcomed by U.S. allies. Any retaliatory actions would take Russia’s “special military operation” or limited war and rapidly see it expand beyond a regional war to a global conflagration.
Putin’s actions may appear to be reckless and uncalculated to the West he remains a rational actor in his own context and one that assuredly knows the risks and consequences of nuclear escalation. Whilst it is unlikely that he would choose to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine — it would undermine many of his arguments about the conflict and irradiate part of that which is supposedly historically Russian — it is now a non-zero chance.
The real risk here is of overheated rhetoric driving policy and miscalculation. Here, it is critical that policymakers in Washington disconnect Putin’s bluster and bloviation from his actual actions. Testing a missile is not unexpected (and not something done without planning) and the United States has, by comparison, exercised restraint in its own testing recently so as not to risk miscalculation.
The response to Sergei Lavrov’s comments on state television is also instructive. In a wide-ranging interview, the foreign minister said, “When the risks (of using nuclear weapons — ed.) are very, very substantial, I would not like these risks to be artificially inflated, and there are many people willing to do so. The risk is grave, it is real, it cannot be underestimated.” Many in the West took this to mean that Lavrov was warning that the immediate risk of nuclear war couldn’t be “underestimated” as though it were imminent. This is not the case. Lavrov was warning of the actual risks of nuclear war — a global conflagration in which no one wins.
The consequences of nuclear war are global in nature and of the utmost seriousness, and as such demand the most serious of approaches and consideration. Reckless comments suggesting that nuclear war is winnable, that Putin is a madman, or an exchange is imminent are precisely the type of thinking and commentary that is not needed and can lead us down a very dangerous escalatory slide.
Global periphery crises show regionalization in geopolitics
Amidst all of the ongoing chaos and pontification surrounding Ukraine, regional geopolitics around the world continues to play an important role in influencing American foreign policy. Flying somewhat under the radar to those outside the region, North Korea conducted a tactical missile test — its 13th such test this year — that highlighted a relatively new capability for Pyongyang’s arsenal: tactical-range nuclear capable munitions.
While the headline grabbing events tend to emphasize North Korea’s intercontinental reach, such as the two long-range tests the North has conducted since 2017. So the efforts to enable short-range nuclear weapons may not seem as influential to us in the West. Yet it demonstrates The People’s Republic is interested in dictating close-proximity conditions more so than continuing to try legitimizing itself to Washington D.C. Pyongyang is most certainly watching the crisis in Eastern Europe, and see’s the value (sensational or literal being largely irrelevant here) of Vladimir Putin threatening and posturing with the Russian nuclear arsenal. Thus, the timing of a recent test launch of a short-range missile is about two main vectors: increased pressure on regional competitors (Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei) in order to pursue favorable diplomatic and political objectives; and second, isolating those dynamics from the ‘great powers’ players in settling discord on the peninsula.
For its part, the United States has never shut the door on continued stabilizing dialogue between the Korea’s and the West, just last week urging a continuation of peace-building negotiations following this most recent test. However, having taken a leading role in the initiative to dictate terms of discussions, North Korea has shown no inclination to respond or engage in discussions that include the United States, preferring instead to huddle in the proverbial corner with a South Korean ‘partner’ and keeping international players outside of any dialogue.
North Korea can and likely will continue to give the United States and even its main benefactor in Beijing the Heisman because it has Seoul up against the wall with this tactical weapon capability. It isn’t a coincidence that this recent missile test occured on the heels of the annual U.S.-South Korean Command Post exercise; these drills occur every year (albeit in a virtual capacity following the 2018 Singapore summit which constrained those exercises from live-maneuver drills) and highlight U.S. security investments in the region. Pyongyang aims to set the conditions for any Korean peninsula discussions on stability, one that favors the North by forcing the South to ask for capitulation on international pressure.
This isn’t the only evidence of regional actors pulling themselves back from the bigger international actors either. With Russia engaged in Ukraine and having withdrawn many of its ‘advisors’ from Syria, who else would step in to fill the security gap but Iran? Israeli intelligence services have reported just this week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel have taken up the vacuum in places like Aleppo, Homs, and Mohin, who were welcomed by the al-Assad regime: “We are in a state of war, and we have the right to receive assistance and expertise from whoever we see fit” said a top advisor to the Syrian President.
Of course, Syria is concerned mostly with outsourcing its security guarantees due to the utter chaos that it faces with so many disparate rebel groups continuing to fight over formerly Kurdish and ISIS territory. Iran is concerned with its regional hegemonic ambitions and putting continued pressure on Israel, which Syrian territory and infrastructure enables by way of weapons shipments to Lebanon and Hezbollah. Were these simply conventional forces and traditional security advisors, that might be viewed as little more than congeniality, but the Israeli intel has suggested these are highly trained Iranian special units who can replicate similar technical and tactical capabilities as those of the Russian special forces and Wagner group personnel who now find themselves in Donbas. Tehran, like Pyongyang, is watching the eyes of the world move to Ukraine, and has seen an opportunity to calcify its regional actor role in ways not previously possible.
So let’s call it Regionalization in geopoliticking and foreign policy, a term typically associated with economic integration and entanglements, less so about the security and diplomatica of state relationships. But in short, key actors in regions are pushing at new heights to solidify their influence that discounts the United States and Russia, who are pulling at Ukraine like a rope, and China, who has been cagey and coyly laid back since the end of February.
Of course, the U.S. and its institutionalist familia is pushing for precisely the opposite; in the case of Ukraine the American foreign policy apparatus intends on hosting a security summit in Germany which included all NATO members, as well as invitations to African, Levant, and Pacific states to discuss a more closely integrated international response to the crisis in Eastern Europe. When was the last time we saw members of the Indo-Pacifics Quad, Qatar, and Kenya sitting down with common cause along the U.S. and NATO?
The rules based order appears to be doubling down on constructivist integration, while the destabilizing actors (who remain rational in their actions if we stopped thinking of them as ‘bad guys’ and recognize that they are simply motivated by their own security interests) are looking to break off the international order into smaller chunks of their own influence and terms. Fortunately, institutions remain strong abroad (crises tend to have that effect on bureaucracies), but it doesn’t diminish the threat of fractionalization in these regions that can get lost in the headlines.
Russia’s War in Ukraine and Japan’s Military Normalization
One of the unintended consequences of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has been the acceleration of Japan’s military normalization. Indeed, the Russian factor has invariably shaped Japan’s grand strategy throughout its modern history, and Tokyo’s reproval of Moscow’s renewed aggression in Ukraine is the beginning of another cycle of historical dynamics surrounding the two countries. Japan’s rebuke of Russia culminated when Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), recently unveiled its proposal for Tokyo’s upcoming revision of its National Security Strategy (NSS) document, its first upgrade since 2013. The LDP proposal contains many consequential ideas reflecting Tokyo’s emerging grand strategy for a new epoch driven by an authoritarian Eurasia increasingly led by Russia and China. The upshot is the rise of a Japanese sea power freed from its traditional “self-defense only” security paradigm and renewing its geopolitical thrust into the Eurasian continent in defense of a rules-based Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine has served as a true wake-up call for Tokyo, posing fundamental questions about the future of its grand strategy. In fact, the evolution of Japan’s grand strategy is inextricable from Russia throughout its modern history. For example, the opening of feudal Japan in the mid-19th century by US gunboat diplomacy led by Commodore Matthew Perry coincided with Tsarist Russia’s growing encroachment of the nascent Asian country, leading Tokyo to boost its naval cooperation with the British Empire. The Anglo-Japanese relationship rapidly evolved into a full-fledged military alliance by 1902 in the run-up to the 1904–5 Russo-Japanese War, spawning Asia’s preeminent sea power defeating the world’s largest land power. By contrast, Tokyo’s engagement with the Soviet Union beginning in 1925 impeded its sea power orientation and led Japan to essentially become a semi-land power challenging other sea powers, such as the US. Imperial Japan’s unconditional surrender and the subsequent US occupation subjugated postwar Japan as Washington’s forward base, and the advent of the Cold War further consolidated the country’s subordinate status which paradoxically resurrected its sea power orientation.
Postwar Japan’s sea power orientation as a part of Washington’s Cold War regional strategy also became an article of faith in domestic Japanese politics. This occurred against the backdrop of the former Japanese prime minister Shigeru Yoshida’s efforts to craft a grand strategy for the country reborn as Washington’s bulwark against communism in Asia. Yoshida’s grand strategy clearly defined the Soviet Union as the chief adversary to be countered by the US-Japan alliance. It also revolved around the peculiar division of labor within the US-Japan alliance in which Japan was to focus exclusively on its postwar economic recovery by delegating its national security responsibility to Washington. Yoshida thus removed domestic politics from Japan’s wavering grand strategy and ensured the country’s sea power orientation for the new epoch driven by the US-Soviet bipolar geopolitical rivalry. His legacy commonly known as the Yoshida Doctrine is still palpable as no subsequent Japanese leader has succeeded in replacing it.
The upshot of Yoshida’s fateful decision was the emergence of the national security doctrine focused solely on Japan’s self-defense called senshu boei, or “exclusively defensive self-defense.” The doctrine of senshu boei has operationalized the Yoshida Doctrine by limiting the scope of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to the perceived self-defense of Japan. Unlike the Yoshida Doctrine, the senshu boei doctrine evolved over time thanks largely to the vague definition of the term itself, leading JSDF to transform from a purely domestic police organization to a de facto modern military boasting a world-class navy. In other words, postwar Japan’s national security doctrine in fact has served as a useful political expedient facilitating the country’s military normalization without compromising its constitutional virtue. Moreover, it has also allowed postwar Japan to acquire cutting-edge defense technologies from the US, boosting the lethality of JSDF despite its supposed focus on the country’s self-defense.
The 2013 NSS introduced under the former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration aimed to bridge Japan’s grand strategy with the doctrine of senshu boei. Abe’s NSS emerged against the backdrop of his new policy of rapprochement with Russia for the supposed strategic effect of grand maneuvering against China from its Eurasian rear. Abe’s grand strategy thus hinged on his engagement with the Russian president Vladimir Putin for a diplomatic breakthrough elevating the Russo-Japanese relationship into a de facto anti-China alliance. As a result, the 2013 NSS designated Russia as a strategic partner, if not a potential ally, and accelerated Tokyo’s naval thrust into the South China Sea to counter Beijing’s maritime ambitions. The main issue with Abe’s NSS was that the Japanese prime minister himself had committed an irreversible grand strategic error of accommodating Russia out of desire for replacing the Yoshida Doctrine. The upshot was Abe’s almost decade-long diplomatic waltz with Putin which led to Tokyo’s virtually exclusive focus on China at the expense of Russia. The historical significance of Abe’s agenda was that it almost risked the same grand strategic mistake of pursuing a rapprochement with Russia while boosting Japan’s naval power as in 1941 when Tokyo signed the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact on the eve of its catastrophic attack on Pearl Harbor.
Against this backdrop, the latest LDP proposal seeks to address the various flaws in the 2013 NSS in light of the new geopolitical reality confronting Japan. The LDP proposal essentially reaffirmed the enduring wisdom of the Yoshida Doctrine and essentially repositioned Japan as a bulwark against global authoritarianism, namely Russia, China, and North Korea. Indeed, it used the harshest words possible to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as a direct threat to the post-WWII liberal international order. Meanwhile, it correctly designated China as the most pressing threat to Japan. Moreover, the LDP proposal recognized hybrid warfare as the emerging character of war confronting Japan in the age of great power competition and prescribed various solutions to capability gaps in areas, such as information warfare. Finally, the document urged that the next NSS focus on the defense of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. In other words, Japan’s political establishment clearly recognizes the growing relevance of the Yoshida Doctrine and seeks to upgrade it for the new epoch by promoting Japan’s proactive engagement in the Indo-Pacific as the region’s preeminent sea power.
One key highlight of the LDP proposal is the addition of “counter-attack capabilities” formerly known as “enemy base strike capabilities” during the Abe years. In fact, Abe enthusiastically promoted the concept of “enemy base strike capabilities” ostensibly to address the North Korean threat, but his real agenda was to counter China’s emerging anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) strategy in the early 2010s. Consistent with his grand strategy, Abe’s military strategy also failed to recognize Russia’s resurgence, particularly in the nuclear domain. The newly proposed concept of “counter-attack capabilities” is a significant upgrade from its predecessor and takes into account the Russian factor, particularly its hybrid warfare threats. As a result, the proposed idea seeks to expand the attack surface beyond enemy missile launch facilities to include command and control infrastructures and other targets. In other words, the next NSS might allow Tokyo to conduct offensive or even preemptive strikes against enemy bases of operations deemed to be attacking Japan. For example, Tokyo could conduct offensive cyber operations against disinformation mills in China much in the fashion of the US Cyber Command’s defense forward doctrine. The significance of such an expanding scope of second strike capabilities consists of Tokyo’s growing recognition to modernize its forces in the age of hybrid warfare and its willingness to reinterpret the doctrine of senshu boei for the new epoch.
Japan’s emerging NSS looks to become an essential upgrade of the Yoshida Doctrine. Indeed, one major flaw of the Yoshida Doctrine is its unintended legacy of pacifism. In fact, Ysohida himself exploited postwar Japan’s peace constitution to reject Washington’s request for Tokyo’s support for its global wars, but he was hardly a peacenik. He envisioned a sea power Japan possessing a full-fledged military proactively engaged in world affairs. Yet, while the Yoshida Doctrine has succeeded in fixing postwar Japan’s sea power orientation, it. has unmistakably impeded Japan’s progress in normalizing its military. Unlike Abe’s agenda, what long required Japan was not a new doctrine, but an upgrade of the Yoshida Doctrine. Under the next NSS, Japan will likely transform into a proactive sea power checking the rise of a unified authoritarian Eurasia while defending the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.
The LDP’s new proposal for the next NSS is a welcome development in Asia as the US confronts Russia’s renewed aggression in Europe. Japan rarely demonstrates geopolitical foresight and has historically awaited external shocks to galvanize it into desperate actions. In this sense, the perennial Russian threat has almost exclusively driven Japan’s grand strategy since the mid-19th century and has once again upended Tokyo’s perspective on grand strategy in 2022. 71 years ago, Yoshida was in a similar geopolitical predicament overshadowed by the Soviet Union and made the fateful decision to subordinate Japan into Washington’s forward base. Yet, his seemingly humiliating decision ensured postwar Japan’s sea power orientation and its unprecedented peace and prosperity gained from its position in the US-led liberal international order. His ideological successor, the incumbent Japanese prime Fumio Kishida finds himself in a historic coincidence in which the Russian threat looms once again to challenge Japan’s grand strategy. His party’s proposal appears to be a sound starting point for thinking about Japan’s grand strategy in the new epoch.
News You May Have Missed
HSBC is Europe’s largest bank, but the majority of its business is in Asia. Ping An Insurance, a major Chinese shareholder in HSBC has suggested the breakup of HSBC, with its Asian operations to be headquartered in Hong Kong. This comes as HSBC has been facing increased tension over its western roots, yet its cooperation with Chinese authorities in the Hong Kong crackdown. How this pans out could be a model for other companies increasingly torn in a decoupling of China and the west.
There were scenes of confusion and panic at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport as an American family sought to check in an artillery shell they had taken from the Golan Heights. Israel’s main international hub was disrupted as the terminal was cleared and passengers fled hearing rumors of terrorists, while security services sought to ascertain just what the travelers had. After interrogation by officials, they were allowed to board their flight — minus the ordnance.
In an interview published on April 26, Gazprombank Vice President Igor Volobuev said that he had fled Russia and had enlisted in Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces to fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Volobuev, who said that he personally led efforts to discredit Ukraine’s gas transportation system in the eyes of European investors, was born in the city of Okhtyrka in Ukraine’s northeast, which saw significant fighting nearby in the opening stages of Russia’s invasion. Motivated by the knowledge that family members and friends were suffering as a result of the invasion, Volobuev said that he enlisted to fight in the war to “wash off” his previous work in Russia. The former Gazprombank Vice President also claimed in his interview that he did not believe the recent abrupt deaths of Gazprombank Vice President Vladislav Avaev and high-ranking Novatek manager Sergei Protosenya were suicides, and that he instead thought they were targeted killings.
Despite pressure from the United States and Europe on Beijing to further distance from Moscow, the Chinese Communist regime is doubling down on their support for their recent diplomatic pact. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “the success of China-Russia relations is that the two sides rise above the model of military and political alliance in the Cold War era” and continued to add that they “commit themselves to developing a new model of international relations” which did not involve confrontations or targeting other countries. Ukrainians might now ask Zhao Lijian if this means that the people of Shanghai are free to go about their business or if Taiwan is now part of California.
The views of authors are their own and not that of CSPC.