Friday News Roundup — May 6, 2022

Welcome to the first Friday News Roundup of May on a very rainy Friday in DC. This week, a Monday leak that was first reported by POLITICO revealed that the Supreme Court has reportedly already voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade as well as a subsequent and similarly impactful 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The leaked majority opinion, which was penned by Justice Samuel Alito, sent shockwaves through Washington almost immediately after the story broke. News of the overturning of Roe comes as Capitol Hill and the rest of the country gears up for what will be, by most predictions, a hard-fought and acrimonious battle, even before Monday’s leak. Despite his apparent opposition to the overturning of Roe, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed a desire that the leak would not undermine trust in the nation’s highest court. In the face of pressure from legislators, the President, and public opinion on all sides of the debate on abortions, the Court will likely have to contend with a loss of faith in itself as an institution for the foreseeable future.

Other news from this week included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s three-hour lightning trip to Kyiv to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky with a delegation of several senior House Democrats. Following the House Democrats’ meeting with Zelensky and other prominent Ukrainian officials, the delegation traveled to Poland to meet with U.S. forces stationed in the country and to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. In a contentious and nationally-watched primary, Hillbilly Elegy author and venture capitalist JD Vance won the Republican nomination in Ohio’s Senate race. He edged out close competition from the right-wing former treasurer of Ohio Josh Mandel after receiving an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. On Thursday, the White House announced that Karine Jean-Pierre would succeed Jen Psaki, who is leaving the administration next week. Jean-Pierre, who currently serves as principal deputy press secretary, will be the first Black and first out LGBT press secretary when she takes over the job following Psaki’s departure. Meanwhile, European Union leaders continue to negotiate the specifics of a planned ban on the import of Russian oil into the bloc.

This week, Joshua C. Huminski, the Director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs reviewed “Adriatic” by Robert D. Kaplan. While it is billed as having insights into the future of geopolitics via tour of the titular sea, it’s better read as a travelogue that explores the region’s rich history, art, and culture.

Joshua also hosted Dr. Jade McGlynn and Dr. Ben Noble for a virtual webinar on Russia’s politics, propaganda, and memory, which informs Wes Culp’s round-up piece this week. A video of this discussion will be posted to CSPC’s YouTube page, soon.

Next week on 13 May at 1100 EDT, Joshua sits down with the Wall Street Journal’s Erich Schwartzel to discuss his book “Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.” Also reviewed by Joshua for the Diplomatic Courier, “Red Carpet” is a fascinating exploration of an underappreciated aspect of strategic competition — the battle for the big and small screen, and narrative control by Hollywood, Washington, and Beijing. You can register for this event via this link.

In this week’s roundup, Wes discusses how Russia’s domestic political system has faced pressure to change as Moscow’s war in Ukraine drags on. Joshua examines recent media reports that American intelligence provided to Ukraine has been used in high-profile targeted strikes on Russian generals and the Russian cruiser Moskva. Ethan gives an after-action report on this year’s “Sullivan Cup” Best Tank Crew competition. Hidetoshi considers an emerging Japanese geostrategic doctrine.

As Russia’s Ukraine War Drags on, Domestic Russian Politics Cautiously Adapts

By Wesley Culp

(Russian Security Council Chairman Nikolai Patrushev, Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

As Russia’s war continues far beyond the Kremlin’s target of a few days (with even Belarusian strongman and Russian ally Alexander Lukashenko admitting that the war has dragged on longer than expected), Russia’s political system has been placed under new pressures to conform by the Kremlin. At all levels of Russia’s polycentric government model, stakeholders of all stripes are being forced to fall in to support for Russia’s invasion, which was ultimately crafted by only a few members of the top rungs of the Presidential Administration.

The clear failure of the Russian armed forces’ opening strategy and the slow and negligible advances secured by Russian forces since Moscow’s attention was shifted to a narrower campaign in Ukraine’s east fuels a significant strategic debate among Russia’s elite behind closed doors. In particular, stakeholders from the Russian security state have attempted to kick Russia’s invasion and economy into a fully wartime footing, chief among them the powerful head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. In a April 26 public interview with the state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev etched out a view of Russia’s war in Ukraine centered around the belief that “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine were simply proxies of the United States, and that Russia was acting in its own defense against Anglo-American “piracy.” As noted by Russian leadership expert Mark Galleotti, Patrushev’s interview — whose target audience was likely President Vladimir Putin himself — represents an attempt by Russia’s siloviki (key stakeholders representing Russia’s military and security state establishments) to reframe the invasion as a true war in response to supposed Western escalation. Simultaneously, other figures in the Russian government such as Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense Yuri Shvytkin continue to deny outright that a general mobilization is imminent.

The most pressing question facing observers of Russia’s invasion for the near-term future is whether Russia’s leadership will seek to fully mobilize the Russian military, economy, and population, as opposed to the existing Kremlin policy of referring to its invasion as a limited “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Denials that mobilization is imminent from certain corners of the Russian government recalls similar denials that an invasion was imminent from those same officials in the fall of 2021 and early winter 2022. Nonetheless, it appears that Russia’s leadership has not yet made up its mind on whether to mobilize or not. As noted by Drs. Ben Noble and Jade McGlynn in a Wednesday CSPC event on Russia’s politics, propaganda, and war memory, it is impossible to predict now if President Putin will make use of next week’s Victory Day commemorations to announce or call for full-scale mobilization, as some have suggested. However, May 5 news reports that U.S. intelligence agencies provided certain intelligence to the Ukrainian armed forces that was later used to kill Russian generals or locate the cruiser Moskva before it was attacked and sunk by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles could provide ammunition to hawkish factions within the Kremlin which seek to kick off a general mobilization. As of the morning of May 6, Russian state media had already begun to report on the provision of American intelligence on the location of the Moskva and Russian generals in Ukraine.

One of the elements of Russia’s political system which Russian elites still appear to be unsure of what to do with is the role of local politics in the Russian political system, including the role of elections in Russia’s political system. There are reports that federal officials were considering canceling Russia’s upcoming gubernatorial elections currently slated for September on the pretense of significant challenges presented by sanctions and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Russia had previously used a system of indirect election of governors between 2005 and 2011, as elections have been one of the most-tweaked elements of Russia’s political system in the Putin era. The Kremlin claims they will decide soon on the future of Russian gubernatorial elections. Russian state media has also claimed that Russia’s Central Election Commission has not discussed delaying or cancelling other regional elections planned to be held concurrently on Russia’s September 11 “Unified Days of Elections.” As Russia’s governing elite struggle to decide on how to configure Russia’s election architecture in the short term, Russia’s “systemic opposition” Communist Party (KPRF) and Liberal Democratic (LDPR) Parties are unsure how to proceed as well, casting doubt on what their future role within Russia’s heavily managed political system will be. While the challenges to the status quo in Russia’s leading “opposition” parties differ significantly from one another — with KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov in a long-term struggle with younger members of his party who favor a more confrontational stance with the Kremlin, and the LDPR left with a void of natural leadership after the death of its bombastic former leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the role of the two parties in Russian politics are not guaranteed.

Much international attention has been paid to the impact on Russia’s role in the world and the Russian economy as a result of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but the evolution of Russia’s internal political system remains less explored.

U.S.-Ukraine Intelligence Cooperation & Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Joshua C. Huminski

In a series of disclosures, unidentified American officials gave a glimpse into the extent of Washington’s intelligence cooperation with Ukraine. Officials first disclosed that intelligence provided by America had helped Ukrainian forces kill at least 12 of Russia’s generals. Later, and separately, officials said that intelligence provided by the United States helped Ukraine strike and sink Russia’s cruiser, the Moskva, in the Black Sea.

In the case of the former, the White House attempted to clarify the reporting after the New York Times released the article, confirming that the intelligence was provided but not “with the intent to kill Russian generals.” It was also noted that the recent Ukrainian artillery strike that is believed to have wounded the Chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, was not based on American intelligence. Officials said that they were not providing, and would not provide, intelligence that would target Russia’s senior most generals.

That the United States is providing intelligence to Ukraine is not unexpected. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told the U.S. Senate that, “There’s a significant amount of intelligence flowing to Ukraine from the United States”, adding that “We have opened up the pipes.” Throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and NATO have consistently provided munitions and equipment to support Kyiv’s defensive efforts and, now, offensive efforts to push out Russia’s forces. It would have been surprising if Washington was not providing intelligence in addition to the actual kit.

What is, however, surprising, is the fact that officials in Washington are becoming increasingly brazen in disclosing what was already assumed, but unsaid. The administration has, until recently, been very reticent about risking an expansion of the conflict by providing equipment beyond a certain level or risking crossing an unidentified Russian red-line. Whilst all parties know what is happening — Russia knows the West is providing arms and support to Ukraine, and the West knows Russia knows and, at the same time, does not want to risk expanding the conflict — there has been a sort of unstated understanding. Moscow threatens NATO and allied support, saying it is a legitimate target while the West does not push the threshold too far, either goading Russia into acting.

These disclosures are, by contrast, very much saying what is assumed or inferred, out loud with very little apparent gain. It is also a sharp change from the use of strategic intelligence in the run-up to the war — something for which the administration should be praised. Prior to Russia’s invasion, the United States provided a near continuous running commentary on Moscow’s intentions, alleged inner workings and debates, and possible courses of action, demonstrating an impressive level of penetration (whether signals intelligence or human intelligence, is unclear, but the result is the same, regardless). Indeed, it seemed as though Langley and Fort Meade knew more about President Vladimir Putin’s plans than his own generals did.

So why the disclosures? For some, there is a touch of overexuberance within the Intelligence Community — that after the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ukraine represents a clear success and therefore should be trumpeted. This is an unconvincing explanation, alone. Undoubtedly the Community has a lot about which it should be proud when it comes to the war in Ukraine. It certainly represents a high-water mark in recent history for American intelligence. More broadly, the administration has been fairly controlled in its messaging and public narratives. Such a disclosure on its own, while possible, is unlikely.

A more likely explanation is that the administration believes that in doing so, it is furthering its pressure on President Putin and Russia’s military by demonstrating the extent of its commitment and backing of Kyiv. The possible hope is that it is showing that Washington is already doing, but is also willing to do, more than simply provide arm and assistance. This is, however, unlikely to be effective as undoubtedly Moscow already suspected that Washington/NATO was providing such support to Ukraine. Saying so out loud merely confirms what the Kremlin already knew, but merely now has formal White House confirmation as such.

The reality is that there are few upsides of trumpeting these intelligence successes. Saying the quiet part out loud simply confirms what Russia undoubtedly already suspected while at the same time feeding into the Kremlin’s narrative that the West is decidedly at war with Russia itself. Comments by Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, are also seen in this similar vein: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

Will Russia retaliate? Moscow undoubtedly would like to do so and certainly has the capacity to increase pressure, elsewhere, via cyber tools and, potentially, other more kinetic options, but in the near-term this is less likely. Russia’s campaign in Eastern Ukraine is not meeting with success and expanding the conflict at this time would be foolish at best. Nonetheless, Washington should be more circumspect about its involvement in the information war with Russia and keep the quiet parts, quiet.

2022 Sullivan Cup — Live fires, combined arms, robot drone killers

Ethan Brown

(Maneuver Center of Excellence, Ft. Benning GA)

This week, Fort Benning Georgia hosted its biennial “Sullivan Cup” Best Tank Crew competition, where hand-picked teams from across the U.S. Army’s assorted armor units converge on Bennings live-fire ranges for a week-long series of Soldier specific challenges, physical fitness events, and of course, fire-and-maneuver exercises culminating in the ‘Operation Thunderstrike’ live-fire demo for spectators and coalition attendees. (Note that the competition and its top teams will not be announced until after the publication of this column, so I will provide that update next week).

Yours truly still resides in Columbus GA, and I was fortunate enough to snag an invite to the aforementioned live-fire demonstration. If ever given the opportunity to observe our armed forces launching projectiles at targets from up close and personal, take it from me, you should attend. Armor presents an interesting, if seemingly archaic role in the hyper-complex modern battlefield. The last time the big ugly hog-mollies like the M1 Abrams tank saw action of any significance in the real world was more than a decade ago in the deserts of Iraq. Armor seems to have lost the spotlight in the world of hypersonic missiles, cyber warfare, asymmetric resistance and clandestine operations. Even COVID has had an impact on the utilitarian value of armor, where small congested (and not always sanitary) cabins are now viewed with an inherent suspicion for contagion.

Combined Arms feature presentation

All of those atmospherics aside, the role of a maneuver force encased in a hull of 16” thick hardened steel capable of tossing a 41lb M829A1 120mm armor-piercing round at distances of nearly 3 km remains, to say the least, among the hardest of hard power options for a modern state in terms of conventional killing capacity. Being able to perform those duties in a large maneuver element requires training, just to achieve basic competency, and a lifetime of dedication to truly achieve proficiency at the leviathan beasts whose very design is to close with and destroy the enemy.

So in order to promote the continued proficiency of the force, LTG Ted Martin, then serving as the 45th Chief of Armor, established the Sullivan Cup competition in 2012, meant to assess the capabilities across the armor community, often including representatives from coalition partners and the United States Marine Corps. The competition is named after retired General Gordon Sullivan, who had served as the 36th Chief of Staff of the Army and retired in 1996 after 36 years in service. General Sullivan presided over the modernization of the U.S. Army following the Cold War, a transition that could have left the armored branch in the moth balls. Rather, General Sullivan’s vision for an expeditionary armor force gave rise to the highly modular and lethal combined weapons teams seen this week at Fort Benning.

This year’s event hosted 12 total teams (seven M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, five M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles) from across the U.S. Army’s most renowned armor commands, including representatives from the 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Regiment and 4th Armor Combat Regiment. While the emphasis of this week was of course armor maneuver, the teams competed in a multitude of basic soldier drills — radio operations, navigation, intelligence and reconnaissance assessments, casualty care/combat first aid, and individual weapons field stripping and shooting — in order to test each crew as first-line soldiers as well as their armor chops. The panoply of events was performed in the already-blistering Georgia heat (max temps reaching over 90° with more than 70% humidity).

Not only do the MBTs go out and do drills to prove tanker proficiency, but incorporation of the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) is an important part of the combined arms sequencing of troops and vehicles on the battlefield…armor is susceptible to enemy ground attack from personnel if it lacks its own infantry to protect it (as we’ve seen in Ukraine time and time again), so seeing these two platforms rehearsing battle drills together reinforces the utilitarian value of how the Army has task-organized it’s combat teams. Of course, everything’s better when you add air power to the mix, as shown in the capture below from the stands…

(Author photo)

At one point during the live-fire demonstration, two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters buzzed right above the observation overhangs before executing a ‘pop-up’ or “Top Hat” attack, where both aircraft ducked below the terrain crest just short of an ‘enemy’ column of armor and crested the terrain feature with a barrage of rockets and 30mm chaingun engagements. This combined arms drill is only feasible in wartime if the friendly armor team has effectively fixed the enemy armor in place, which first requires the M2A3 Bradleys darting forward to find and fix the adversary. Following that, a mutually-supportive repeating salvo of the M1 Abrams 120mm main cannon fire brackets the enemy column, destroying the first and last enemy vehicles in line. Meanwhile, the fire team chief is radioing for helicopter support to locate and engage the targets from either a safe distance or the aforementioned rapid top hat engagement.

So in short, it was quite the spectacle and a stolid reinforcement of the American supremacy of warfighting tech. These systems…the M1, the M2A3, and the AH-64, are all decades old. In fact, the two armor pieces saw action in the Vietnam War, while the Apache gunship entered service soon after that conflict ended. But all three remain viable pieces of the ground combat inventory, although another exhibit at the event may well be the harbinger of the M1 and M2A3 fading into the history books…

The future is ‘unmanned’

Before the live-fire event, I happened across a static-display featuring Textron Systems M-5 unmanned ground combat vehicle, dubbed the “RIPSAW” (pic below). This particular variant (and there are several, including a mine-sweeper, counter-IED, and light attack) was the ‘drone-killer’ variety, boasting a radar queueing system fused with a coaxial .50 cal machine gun able to detect and accurately track small UAS/drone targets and engage autonomously. Further, this particular variant had a smoke-canister attachment which could provide obscuration and concealment with its 24-rack of smoke grenades — perfect for deterring observation by an enemy reconnaissance drone.

Textron Systems M-5 “RIPSAW”, Drone-killer variant (author photo)

What makes the RIPSAW unique from it’s M2A3 ‘ancestor’, is that the diesel-hybrid vehicle is totally unmanned, but provides many of the same forward reconnaissance capabilities of the Bradley, while being safely maneuvered by a soldier at distance using an Xbox controller. The RIPSAWs hybrid system is capable of reaching ranges of 300km (the diesel generator charges the lithium high-capacity battery and knows when to begin charging), making it an environment-conscious and low-noise alternative to the droning roar of both the Bradley and the Abrams. The sales rep who I spoke to about the RIPSAW (named withheld for the sake of objectivity) informed me that this system is entirely capable of being integrated into a meshed command and control network, a system which the U.S. Army is currently developing in real-time in order to create a fleet of semi-autonomous armor pieces for unleashing on a modern battlefield.

So for now, the RIPSAW still requires human input to maneuver, but the future may not be so constrained as that, and that future is seemingly not that far away. While watching the Sullivan Cup competition reinforced the sheer lethality of our current inventory of Armor Combat Teams, there are ground technologies that have already leapt from the drawing board to the proving grounds who will soon be fielded to operational units. It may not be the harbinger of entirely autonomous/’unmanned’ methods of warfare, but this week’s event has shown that future battlefields will be taking technological leaps and bounds unlike any previous era of warfare’s long history.

The Emerging Contours of Japan’s Yoshida Doctrine 2.0

Hidetoshi Azuma

(Maneuver Center of Excellence, Ft. Benning GA)

In Japan, an annual flurry of diplomatic maneuvers occurs during the first week of May when the country’s domestic politics enters a week-long recess known as the Golden Week. Following the two-year freeze of this tradition stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida resumed the routine earlier this week with extraordinary zest. He began his diplomatic tour by traversing Southeast Asian countries before arriving in London while simultaneously dispatching his ministers from Washington DC to Central Asian and Mongolian capitals. The global rise of authoritarianism, particularly Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, obviously overshadowed Kishida’s globe-trotting diplomacy, further delineating the contours of his nascent grand strategy for Japan. The upshot is Kishida’s accidental rediscovery of its Cold War-era grand strategy known as the Yoshida Doctrine, which he increasingly looks to upgrade for the emerging epoch driven by great power competition.

The Yoshida Doctrine emerged at the height of the US-Soviet Cold War and played a decisive role in ensuring post-WWII Japan’s sea power orientation in its grand strategy. The former prime minister Shigeru Yoshida soberly recognized the grand strategic significance of sea power for the newborn Japan and took extra pains to ensure the country’s newfound geostrategic orientation even by subordinating its sovereignty to Washington’s will in exchange for postwar economic reconstruction. Yoshida’s watershed decision in 1951 occurred thanks to his sober recognition of Imperial Japan’s failed search for its grand strategy largely stemming from its troubled relationship with Russia. Imperial Japan constantly oscillated between confrontation and rapprochement with Russia, leading the Asian empire to waver in its geostrategic orientation throughout its history. Indeed, Imperial Japan was one of the world’s preeminent sea powers by 1905 thanks to its alliance with the British Empire and its victory over Russia while the same empire later became a semi-Eurasian, iliberal land power wielding its naval might against other sea powers, culminating in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the fall of Singapore. Against this historical backdrop, the Yoshida Doctrine thus essentially eliminated the need for geostrategy from Japan’s strategic calculus for the postwar era by yielding the country’s fate to Washington’s Cold War strategy.

The real significance of the Yoshida Doctrine lies in the fact that no alternative doctrines have emerged to replace it. In fact, Russia once again overshadowed postwar Japan’s national security discourse, threatening to undo the very foundation of the Yoshida Doctrine. The Soviet Union’s looming influence on Tokyo’s grand strategy particularly inspired those at odds with Yoshida. For example, Yoshida’s arch nemesis, the former prime minister Ichiro Hatoyama, indefatigably pursued a rapprochement with the Soviet Union in 1956 and incurred Washington’s ire, aiding Moscow’s strategic objective of driving a wedge in the US-Japan alliance. Likewise, Hatoyama’s ideological ally, the former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, also challenged Yoshida’s legacy by seeking a Pan-Asianist Japan maintaining an equilibrium between the US and the Soviet Union ultimately to emerge as a unifier of Asia. Kishi’s grandson, the former prime minister Shinzo Abe, promoted a similar Pan-Asianist concept and sought in vain to secure a historic rapprochement with Russia. Ultimately, these political stalwarts all witnessed their visions flounder as they failed to achieve the same degree of geostrategic coherence as Yoshida.

Despite the Yoshida Doctrine’s unrivaled track record of guiding postwar Japan’s grand strategy, it has paradoxically done irreparable damage to Japan’s strategic culture. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the core premise of the Yoshida Doctrine, or the US-Japan alliance inadvertently caused strategic senility in Tokyo over time precisely because it removed the need for Japan’s own geostrategy. In other words, geostrategic discernment ceased to be a prerequisite for Japan’s political leadership after Yoshida, leading to the ascendancy of idiosyncrasy over prudence in the country’s national security discourse. Indeed, Tokyo continues to view the US-Japan alliance as an a priori arrangement and assume eternal American goodwill. Although the rise of the former president Donald Trump in the latter half of the 2010s was a temporary wake-up call for Japan’s political establishment, the election of the president Joe Biden in 2020 led Tokyo to revert to its usual disregard for its own geostrategy. Moreover, the Yoshida Doctrine’s domestic challengers, particularly Abe, contributed much to Japan’s geostrategic ambiguity, garbling its default sea power orientation ironically due to their engagement with Russia.

Kishida thus emerged against the backdrop of the Yoshida Doctrine’s growing atrophy. While the incumbent Japanese prime minister’s geostrategic perspicacity remains to be seen, he undoubtedly harbors his personal ambition for his own legacy and the revival of his party faction known as the Kochi-kai. In fact, the Kochi-Kai ultimately has its ideological roots in Yoshida himself and has historically nurtured the liberal school of Japan’s grand strategy promoting a dovish approach to national security focused on diplomatic and economic engagement instead of military power. In January, Kishida unveiled his foreign policy vision called “realist diplomacy for the new era” mostly revolving around the defense and promotion of liberal values, particularly the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept and global denuclearization. For example, Kishida’s signature economic security policy is a prominent manifestation of his “realist,” yet dovish approach to foreign policy as it simultaneously addresses both China’s geopolitical challenges and Japan’s economic relations with its significant neighbor through promotion of liberal values.

Despite its lofty aims, Kishida’s January 2021 foreign policy vision suffered a troubled beginning due to its questionable implementation. In fact, Kishida largely inherited Abe’s foreign policy legacy, although the two leaders hail from competing factions with divergent worldviews. For example, Kishida continued Abe’s controversial policy of rapprochement with Russia right up to Moscow’s launch of another invasion of Ukraine on February 24. His dubious engagement with Russia led to more questions than answers about his approach to Japan’s most important geopolitical rival, China. Indeed, his economic security agenda putatively aimed to address China’s growing geoeconomic influence, but the proposed Economic Security Bill casts considerable doubt on its seriousness, let alone effectiveness. By late February, Kishida’s foreign policy had already begun to drift away and appeared incapable of reinvigorating the moribund Yoshida Doctrine.

In this sense, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is a godsend for Japan as it forced Tokyo to fundamentally upend its grand strategy. The repugnant spectacle of Russia’s naked aggression in Ukraine finally provided Kishida with the necessary pretext for course correction in Tokyo’s grand strategy. The spate of his anti-Russia initiatives, such as economic sanctions and expulsion of Russian diplomats, led the Kremlin to terminate the bilateral peace talks and even sanction the Japanese prime minister himself. More significantly, Kishida’s about-turn on Russia has led Tokyo’s grand strategy to become increasingly realigned with that of the US in its great power struggle with the rise of authoritarianism led by Russia and China. In other words, Kishida finally clarified the geostrategtic orientation of his grand strategy, which now bears an atavistic resemblance to the Yoshida Doctrine. Moreover, Kishida later his intention to fully realign bilateral strategic objectives of the US-Japan alliance. He thus departed from the shibboleths of routinely declaring shared values with the US while blithely disregarding widening perception gaps stemming from the changing geopolitical reality.

Kishida and his ministers’ diplomatic maneuvers during the Golden Week were an important confirmation of Tokyo’ emerging grand strategic doctrine. Kishida’s tour to Southeast Asia and London underscored Tokyo’s renewed commitment to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept with Britain as another maritime anchor on the other end of Eurasia. In particular, the forging of a reciprocal access agreement with the UK amidst Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine even evoked a blithe sense of dejavú given the history of the 1902 Anglo-Japanese alliance signed before the 1904–5 Russo-Japanese War. The simultaneous visit to Washington by his defense and economic ministers highlighted the growing synchronization and operationalization of strategic objectives between the US and Japan in divergent areas ranging from integrated deterrence to supply chain resilience in their common struggle with the global rise of authoritarianism. Perhaps no time in the history of postwar Japan has Tokyo demonstrated such a robust sea power orientation comparable to that temporarily achieved by its prewar predecessor on the eve of its war with Russia.

Kishida’s emerging grand strategy also displayed a novel geostrategic vector: Eurasia. His foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, went on a solitary trip to the abyss of Eurasia, traversing Central Asia and Mongolia. In fact, the Eurasian vector has always remained a key geostrategic priority throughout the modern history of Japan, ultimately culminating in Imperial Japan’s failed, yet ambitious concept of the Anti-communist Corridor spanning from Manchuria to Turkey as a unifier of the Turanian nations. The key rationale for Japan’s historical Eurasian vector has invariably been to prevent the unification of Eurasia under a Sino-Russian alliance and is comparable to the British or American sea power strategy of checking continental powers from posing naval challenges. Indeed, Hayashi specifically sought support from the regional countries in checking Russia’s aggression while promoting economic cooperation with them. In the region where democratization faces perpetual impediments, Japan’s patient, pragmatic engagement through economic cooperation is an important asset as democracies increasingly withdraw from the Eurasian heartland these days.

Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has forced Japan to accidentally rediscover the perennial relevance of the Yoshida Doctrine. It was truly a deus ex machina handed by external forces rather than a personal initiative. Perhaps, in Japan, fortune favors the meek rather than the brave. Yet, the subsequent flurry of the Japanese prime minister’s initiatives underscored his recognition of the country’s newfound geopolitical reality and an eagerness to upgrade the Cold War-era doctrine for the new epoch. Japan once again finds itself confronting Russia and China simultaneously in Asia. If alive, Yoshida would be wont to admonish Kishida against the folly of compromising Japan’s sea power orientation. So far, Kishida is on the right track, and Yoshida’s eternal grand strategic wisdom looks to intervene to correct any future anomalies caused by the impetuous.

News You May Have Missed

Australian PM Morrison rejects Solomon Islands Claim that Canberra Threatened Honiara with Invasion

On May 5, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he was adhering to the advice of Australian defense officials to manage the issue of a security pact signed between China and the Solomon islands in April. In a May 4 appearance in parliament, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare claimed that international detractors of Honiara’s pact with China did not understand the agreement and had threatened the Pacific island nation with invasion. Sogavare’s claim of international threats was a jab at the United States and Australia, who had previously stated that any presence of the Chinese military in the Solomon Islands would be unacceptable. Prior to his broad declaration that he was following the advice of Australian defense officials, Morrison also faced criticism from the opposition Labor Party for not attempting to speak with Sogavare in the period surrounding the inking of the security cooperation agreement between China and the Solomon Islands. The agreement would allow Chinese warships to make port calls in the Solomon Islands to replenish their stores, and would allow China to send troops and police to the island country to “to assist in maintaining social order.”

Esper Details Trump Official’s Proposal to Use Military Force in Mexico

In a Thursday interview, Trump Administration Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that prominent presidential advisor Stephen Miller had suggested that 250,000 American troops be posted to the U.S.-Mexican border to stem migrant traffic into the United States. Esper described his opposition to the idea in a “60 Minutes” interview filmed on Thursday. In addition to his explosive claims regarding a proposal to send troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, Esper has previously detailed moments where former President Donald Trump asked if cruise missiles could be launched into Mexico without telling the Mexican government, and if protesters gathered outside the White House after the murder of George Floyd by police officers could be shot. The former Defense Secretary is set to release a new book on his service in the administration next week.

Russian Girlfriend of Belarusian Activist Seized in RyanAir Forced Landing Sentenced to Prison

Sofia Sapega, the Russian girlfriend of Belarusian activist Roman Protasevich who was seized with her boyfriend when their RyanAir flight from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania was forced to land after crossing through Belarusian airspace, has been sentenced to six years in prison in Belarus on the charge of “inciting social hatred.” In the May of 2021, Belarusian authorities ordered their flight to land in Minsk on the grounds that their was an unspecified bomb threat to the aircraft, which later was revealed to be nonexistent. Protasevich and Sapega were arrested immediately upon landing, which sparked wide international condemnation of the action and precipitated a wave of Western sanctions and airspace restrictions being placed on Belarus.

The views of authors are their own and not that of CSPC.



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