Friday News Roundup — September 23, 2022

Friday greetings from Washington, DC. This week started with a pause as we remembered the life and leadership legacy of Queen Elizabeth II. After pausing for a moment, as history seemed to pause, events continued apace. Global attention shifted from London to Moscow, as Ukraine’s advances in the east have forced Russia to escalate, as Putin announced partial mobilization, went ahead with sham referenda in occupied territories, and threatened nuclear escalation. We cover this more in the roundup, but as the Ukrainians advance and Russian rhetoric hardens, where are we in the conflict? Perhaps, at the end of the beginning, but what remains?

Here in Washington, much of the focus on 2022 is still couched in the rhetoric of 2020 and 2016. Investigations into former President Trump have expanded, as State of New York Attorney General Tish James laid out a range of civil complaints over inflated asset statements by the Trump Organization, naming the former president and his three eldest children in the complaint. Attorney General James also asked federal prosecutors and the IRS to look into these allegations. At the same time, a unanimous three-judge decision, including two Trump-appointed judges — overturned Judge Aileen Cannon’s controversial decision granting the former president’s request for a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago documents. The same special master who was skeptical about the former president’s declassification claims in a Brooklyn court this week. All of this means that the former president remains in the headlines, while concerns about immigration, crime, and the economy still drive many Americans’ concerns. All of this makes for a complicated midterm, jostling for 2024, and challenges to our institutions, democracy, and the rule of law.

At this week’s Concordia Summit, CSPC President & CEO Glenn Nye spoke about decentralized governance. This week we also hosted a virtual event on what the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act means for critical technologies and the broader challenges that remain for innovation leadership.

This week Joshua C. Huminski, the Director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs, reviewed Dr. Bilyana Lilly’s new book “Russian Information Warfare” about how Moscow’s cyber capabilities fit within its broader political warfare efforts. Lilly successfully parses both the forest and the trees, according to Huminski, providing analytical clarity to a subject that is more often than not defined by hyperbole and anecdote.

Huminski also penned a piece for the Council on Geostrategy on the election of Prime Minister Liz Truss, U.S.-UK relations, and AUKUS. Huminski argues that while shared culture, history, and language are important, strategic interests are far more important and sustainable in the “special relationship”.

Elsewhere in the press, Ethan Brown wrote in The Hill how our growing support for Taiwan requires an emphasis on tools for security force assistance. James Kitfield reports from the annual conference of the Air Force Association of how the branch is adapting to the challenge laid down by China.

CSPC President & CEO, Rep. Glenn Nye, Joshua C. Huminski, Ethan Brown, and Sophie Williams paid their respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Embassy of the United Kingdom last week, signing the book of condolence on Thursday.

In this week’s roundup, Joshua Huminski covers what the latest from Moscow in terms of mobilization means — and what’s next in the conflict. Ethan Brown asks questions about readiness in light of watching Russia mobilize and growing tensions over Taiwan. CSPC International Fellow alumnus Sofia Piña Jaubert writes about the race to produce EV batteries. Hidetoshi Azuma provides a unique remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II, and what she meant for relations between Japan and the United Kingdom. As always, we wrap with news you may have missed.

Russia Announces Partial Mobilization of Forces

Joshua C. Huminski

Putin speaks announcing mobilization (YouTube screenshot)

In a national address on Wednesday, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, announced that the country would undergo a partial mobilization of its reserve forces. Speaking after Putin, Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu stated that the government would mobilize up to 300,000 reservists. According to reports the government has already begun to issue mobilization summons across Russia sparking protests, resulting in at least 1,700 arrests, and a rapid rise in ticket prices out of the country.

The full scale and scope of the mobilization is not entirely clear. Russia is assessed to have some two million individuals who served within the last five years, and upwards of 25 million potential reservists in total. It should, however, be noted, that these “reservists” are not understood in the Western or American sense, receiving regular training and undergoing periodic deployments. Based on a Western definition, Russia is believed to have only 4,000–5,000 “reservists”. While some groups are exempt e.g. students, and Shoigu has stated that the mobilization will be limited to only those with prior military experience, there is nothing to say that the order couldn’t be expanded to those with specialized skills. Given the vagaries of Russian law and what constituted a reservist (to say nothing of the need for political and military expediency) there is nothing to suggest that 300,000 is an upper or lower limit or that Russia will restrict itself in its force development.

This is, nonetheless, a significant development. Russia invaded Ukraine in February of this year with roughly 150,000 soldiers — the mobilization could result in a doubling of that number. Shoigu’s remarks should be taken with a grain of salt. He is notoriously inaccurate in his proclamations and it is often the case that his statements do not bear out in reality.

In the remarks, Putin also declared his support for forthcoming (illegal) votes announced by Russian-backed representatives in four territories occupied by Russia — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — which represents some 15% of Ukraine’s territory. Analysts believe that this is a precursor to eventual annexation into Russia proper, which could take place as quickly as a few days after the upcoming votes.

This marks a significant development in Russia’s war in Ukraine and a marked shift in Moscow’s public positioning on its invasion. As recently as Friday of last week, Putin said that no changes were needed to the country’s strategy towards Ukraine. Indeed, it appears that he has, as of late, refused to recognize the conditions on-the-ground and avoided deciding until he could no longer buy time. The partial mobilization is, then, clearly a recognition that Russia’s military is underperforming and, potentially, at one of its most vulnerable positions in the war.

Russia’s forces have sustained heavy casualties since the invasion. American officials estimate that Russia has lost 70,000 to 80,000 soldiers — some 15,000 killed and upwards of three times that amount wounded — since the outbreak of the expanded invasion. Russia’s control of Ukrainian territory is shaky at best as evidenced by the significant offensive Ukraine launched in recent weeks, which has resulted in Kyiv retaking several thousand kilometers of territory, and pushed Russian forces onto the defensive.

The partial mobilization could stabilize the front, providing quantity over quality, in the mid-term. That Ukraine’s offensive was so successful was down not just to the performance of Ukrainian forces (impressive though it was and remains), but also the lack of depth of Russian forces across a significant front line. There is, however, a significant difference between numerical force generation and effective force generation. Russia will be pushing soldiers to the front with minimal refresher training — training is typically done by units as opposed to a central location and the training officers are likely already at the front — who do not want to be there. Russia’s losses already include its frontline and most effective units, suggesting that the combat effectiveness of the armed forces is on a declining slope — a slope the Ministry of Defence hopes to arrest through numbers alone.

They will field increasingly poor-quality equipment and experience the same shortages of critical equipment e.g. secure radios, body armor, drones etc… that previously deployed forces experienced. The Russian military also has a finite capacity to deploy, sustain and support, and command and control forces in the field — these weaknesses have all directly contributed to the poor performance of forces in Ukraine. Russia has and continues to cannibalize personnel from other arms e.g. taking naval personnel and putting them into armored units, which is indicative of the poor state of Russia’s military.

This mobilization will, however, not have an immediate effect on the disposition of the forces at the front. This gradual deployment could take upwards of three months, if not longer, and see troops sent to the front as winter sets in — not ideal conditions for troop morale. Additionally, it appears Russia has issued what amounts to a stop-loss order for contract soldiers who signed up in the spring and summer of this year, likely also contributing to worsening morale. Protests have already broken out in Russian cities resulting in arrests. Tickets to countries not requiring a visa surged in prices and in many cases sold out.

The forthcoming votes are also intended to change circumstances on-the-ground. While the votes are illegal under Ukrainian and international law, and will be rigged, they are part of Russia’s playbook to fold these territories into Russia proper. In so doing it would shift Moscow’s narrative that these newly incorporated territories are officially Russian and, therefore, any Ukrainian offensive against them is attacking Russia itself. This ignores the fact that Ukrainian forces have already launched strikes via special forces and missiles into Russian territory including Crimea.

It also raises the political stakes for Putin, drawing a line in the sand for the regime. If these territories are “officially” Russian, what happens to his credibility if Ukraine retakes portions of them? It is worth noting that Moscow doesn’t have complete control over the occupied ground, with Ukrainian special forces and partisans operating behind the lines, even as Russia attempts to redefine political conditions. In practice, this move is far more for domestic audiences than for the international community. While the West was unwilling to accept Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, Putin’s obfuscation and political warfare made it convenient for the West to accept what many thought to be Russian territory anyway. This will decidedly not be the case in these illegal votes.

Redefining these territories also allows Russia to easily deploy conscripts as under Russian law only contract soldiers can be sent abroad, not conscripts. Politically this could also serve as a quick “victory” for Putin, allowing him to bring this phase of the war to a narrative close, and allow the military to refit, rearm, and consolidate its position — a possibility that assumes the Ukrainian offensive will not continue.

Here Putin again raised the specter of nuclear weapons — a sensitive issue that he knows draws particular attention and concern from the West. He suggested that the West was engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and warned that Russia itself has “lots of weapons”. He said, “To those who allow themselves such statements about Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries.” He added “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” warning that “this is not a bluff.” How likely is Russia to use nuclear weapons? It is unclear, but it is ultimately a political decision on the part of Putin, regardless of what the doctrine says, and divining his intentions over the course of this conflict has been anything but an exact science. Even a small chance of the use of nuclear weapons is a notable risk given the potential impact of even one device’s employment.

In the main, Russia’s announcement means that the war is entering a new phase, the outcome of which is unclear. This is politically and operationally one of the riskiest moves Putin has yet made. If annexation fails, if the partial mobilization fails to achieve its aims, the risks of escalation become very real. Putin could well decide that he needs to demonstrate his seriousness. The nuclear bluster could become more than bluster, though this does not mean actual battlefield use of nuclear arms — it could mean exercises, drills, deployment of weapons from bunkers to units, or changes in the readiness level of Russian strategic forces (something that was done earlier this year). Russia also has options short of nuclear arms including cyber and counter-space capabilities.

It is important to reemphasize that Putin is a rational actor. His restraint against NATO support itself is evidence of his desire to keep the conflict localized to Ukraine and not risk the invocation of Article 5. That said, Putin’s recent moves are indicative of a regime under increasing strain and with fewer options in the face of an increasingly confident and capable Ukraine. Moreover, there is a significant delta between the benefits of using tactical nuclear weapons and the costs–the former would be a certainly destructive event, but there is very little of the latter as it would almost certainly alienate the global south and Russia’s few remaining supporters.

Russia’s mobilization will be running against Ukraine’s offensive and the West’s support of said offensive, as all look ahead to the forthcoming winter. Kyiv could well be in the strongest position of the war yet. The question, as ever, comes down to allied and European support to Ukraine at a time when political and economic pressure could increase over the winter months. If that support can hold, if Russia continues to find itself on the backfoot, and if Kyiv can sustain its offensive, Moscow may well find itself facing a military defeat in Ukraine. This assessment must be cautioned and tempered–tactical or operational success does not mean strategic victory. Nonetheless, Ukraine appears to find itself in an exceedingly favorable position and Russia’s latest moves appear likely only to prolong the conflict, not materially change the battlefield situation.

Domestically, the partial mobilization links the war to the average Russian in a way that, hitherto, it has not yet experienced. While there has been a marked decline in the quality of life for Russian citizens, it has not yet hit home in an appreciable manner. This partial mobilization, depending on how extensive it becomes, could change that and may result in increased domestic opposition to both Putin and the war. Will this result in appreciable policy changes? It is too early to tell.

Russian mobilization & Taiwan defense: DoD readiness now faces critical phase gate

Ethan Brown

USS Port Royal transits the Strait of Taiwan (DOD Photo)

Quite a week in the geopolitical happenings for this roundup — Russia’s move to mobilize a portion of its civilian populace (check out this insightful episode from The Economist on that front) for the Ukraine war, while President Biden minced no words in affirming U.S. commitment to responding against Chinese aggression in Taiwan…should it occur unprecedented. Oh, and to compound the events this week, the United Nations General assembly is in full tilt in New York City, where rhetoric and posturing abounds apace of international events. These events, while objectively unrelated as a cause and effect sequence, are obviously intertwined; as the leverage from which the American President speaks, and how foreign actors perceive our influence abroad, stems from one key player in this game: the readiness of the U.S. military.

While the renewed pontification from Moscow doesn’t precisely cause any course corrections for how the American military ramps up its operational readiness, the move by allies in the European sector still calls for increased participation and integration with American forces overseas. That Germany and Estonia have recently conducted harbor defense exercises at Tallinn, for example, one can rest assured that U.S. and other NATO representation was on hand, at the very least to observe and provide feedback, even if there were no U.S. military participating. In fact, changes to defense postures by European partners are continuing to evolve in a conspicuously timely manner with regards to Russia, although these kinds of initiatives are months in the making, which means ‘coincidence’ is more apropos than ‘conspicuous’.

That brings this analysis to Taiwan and the question of DoD readiness. The assertion by President Biden, that “Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack”, U.S. forces would defend the democratically governed island which stands in opposition to Beijing’s autocracy, goes far beyond INDOPACOM military leaders maneuvering Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) into the Strait of Taiwan for a counter-offensive. And make no mistake, just the routine patrols for a CSG are a gargantuan affair of logistics, personnel and equipment manning, and resource management. Responding to a PLA-incursion would make the Ukraine offensive of February this year look like a brush skirmish, and places tens of thousands of servicemen and women, and billions of dollars worth of equipment at risk of eradication.

The greater scope then, and that which the DoD is now forced to directly and implicitly address, is the global range, certitude, and viability of its systems. Taiwan, should it fall under the aggressors shadow, will echo across time zones and beyond the Pacific. And the DoD is hardly ready to stand-to should the flag go up in the near term (1–3 years), beginning with the enterprises ongoing personnel shortage and recruiting crisis. Manpower readiness, as Russia is soon to grapple by its ugly horns, is a decades-long endeavor. The notion of a draft, which pulls citizens off the streets and prepares them for conflict with a few months training, a new(ish) weapon and a rudimentary understanding of the chain of command, does not substitute or supplement a coherent, professionally developed force capable of winning a war. It merely provides more bodies for a meat-grinder. Rather, the all-volunteer force that is the DoD has prioritized proficiency, technological superiority, and decentralization of its command and control architecture to create a more capable, nimble, and reactive fighting force. This inherently requires tremendous levels of competency across the force, from the stolid Generals and Admirals who define grand strategy as a reflection of policy, to the freshly-indoctrinated infantryman or radar technician.

But these past few years of personnel drop-off, owing a great deal to rampant issues of toxic leadership, systemic issues reflecting social problems, and mental health being largely ignored by all but a few stalwart leaders. It is pervasive problems such as these which impact readiness to respond to this new, clear and enduring policy which Taiwan has become.

The predictable, but unfortunate reality, is that senior policy views technology as a stop-gap measure to offset the personnel shortages. And there certainly are no few upgrades to the defense inventory that tout the edge, albeit slim, which the United States still possesses over Beijing and Moscow. In the coming months, the ultra-secret B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be publicly unveiled, ushering in a new era of long-range anti-air defeating precision strike capabilities. With Taiwan holding the potential to escalate into a global confrontation, defense of the homeland has taken on new levels of importance resulting in the arguments to increase missile and space defense, an enduring priority of the DoD. The Air Force, Army, and Navy have been vectoring their capabilities to contend with China, but above all else, personnel remains the overriding issue if the United States is truly on a path to defend Taiwan.

But it should be noted in the closing here, that Beijing has overtly demonstrated their worries over this dramatic resolution in what was once a policy of “strategic ambiguity”. Beijing has sanctioned Raytheon and Boeing components following the recently approved armed sales to Taiwan, and the dialogue during this week’s United Nations General Assembly reflects Taiwan’s growing confidence in its ambition to emerge from Beijing’s shadow. So the potential for confrontation may have gone up following this week’s comments, but that may reveal a line which Beijing is not willing to cross, and now the DoD must move to seize the opportunity and ensure it is ready to follow through on this policy.

In the Global Electric Vehicle Race, the United States has an Achilles Heel

Sofia Piña Jaubert

Nissan Leaf battery chassis (Wikimedia Commons)

The so-called Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden this summer includes $369 billion in climate and energy provisions. It was designed in part to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles via incentives and tax breaks and marks a major step forward toward the Biden Administration’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States 50% by 2050. Yet the goal of transitioning U.S. consumers from gas-powered automobiles to electric vehicles (EVs) risks being run off the road by a major obstacle: America’s lagging capacity to build the batteries at the core of electric vehicles, which account for approximately half of their total costs.

In fact, over the last couple of decades, China has not only snatched the lead in electric vehicle production and adoption, it has also established itself as the leader in the production of lithium-ion batteries, with nearly 80 percent of global capacity. China dominates production with 93 “gigafactories” that manufacture lithium-ion batteries, versus only four in the United States. That leaves the United States and our European allies exposed to a strategic competitiveness gap.

Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most commonly used batteries in electric vehicles, and they require critical metals for their cathode, the most expensive battery component. Lithium and cobalt are both on the European Union’s Crucial Raw Materials and the U.S. Critical Minerals List. Cobalt is mainly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while U.S. lithium reserves are sufficient to meet demand, only 1% of global lithium is currently mined and processed in the United States. The problem with U.S lithium extraction is not scarcity, but obtaining high enough concentrations to make lithium cost-effective to produce. Whereas it takes about 24 months to build a battery plant, Lithium mining is a long-term venture, requiring 4–7 years for a feasible mine, according to Simon Moores of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Electric vehicle manufacturers are focusing on ways around these critical material supply chain constraints. Chinese auto company BYD’s so-called “blade battery” leverages cobalt-free lithium-iron-phosphate technology, which mitigates the high cost and price volatility associated with cobalt extraction. The Volkswagen group aims to reduce cobalt use in the medium term, Hyundai is undertaking a battery remanufacturing project and Ford has recently announced a series of partnerships to ensure access to raw materials and diversify its supply chain. Elon Musk has also indicated Tesla’s plans to shift more toward lithium iron phosphate batteries for its standard range models. Although the cathode of these batteries is significantly cheaper, its cells are less energy-dense, which means less range. For this reason, Tesla has said it will not use lithium iron phosphate batteries for certain longer-range vehicles.

In order to qualify for the Inflation Reduction Act tax credit, electric vehicle batteries must be largely manufactured or assembled in the United States or a free trade agreement partner. Some auto industry observers have pointed out that these rules disqualify 70 percent of EVs currently available to U.S. customers. Certainly, the goals set out in the Act pose a significant hurdle for an industry with limited access to the crucial components needed for battery production. But the long term objective is to shift battery sourcing away from China and promote American competitiveness. This will take patience due to the lag in developing mining capabilities and battery cell production. With energy security a top global concern, the United States needs to play to its strengths, namely its R&D and innovation capacity, to make lithium extraction economically viable and accelerate technological development of cathode production, and finding ways to produce cobalt-free batteries. In doing so, the United States still has a chance to reposition itself as a future competitive player in EV battery production. Meanwhile, EV manufacturers will continue to hedge their bets, navigate supply chain constraints, and form raw material partnerships to stay competitive in the global EV race.

Dear Sister: Queen Elizabeth and the Anglo-Japanese Special Relationship

Hidetoshi Azuma

(Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip receive Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kojun at Buckingham Palace in 1971, Photo Credit: The Royal Collection Trust)

“Dear Sister” has long been the traditional way of addressing Queen Elizabeth II by Emperor Emeritus Akihito of Japan. Such a casual expression is one of many interesting facts surrounding the enduring royal bond between the two former empires forged through the vicissitudes of history. Indeed, the passing of the British Queen earlier this month serves as a solemn reminder of her indispensable role in reviving the Anglo-Japanese special relationship guided by the monarchies of both countries since the mid-19th century. The dawn of a new era heralded by the accession of King Charles III merits a timely reflection on the sui generis nature of the Anglo-Japanese special relationship.

The Anglo-Japanese special relationship originates in the mid-19th century British imperial policy of transforming Japan into “Asia’s Britain” anchored in the Far East. The British Empire envisaged a modern Japanese sea power capable of checking Russia’s growing imperium over Asia while aiding the regional expansion of the liberal Pax Britannia. Such a vision also implied Britain’s recognition of its increasingly vulnerable position in its Great Game with Russia in the Far East due to the lack of imperial fortresses for regional power projection especially after the founding of Vladivostok (“Rule the East” in Russian) in 1856. The solution was to replicate the British Empire itself in feudal Japan rather than colonize it. Indeed, Britain found on the Far Eastern archipelago a kindred imperial system which had existed since time immemorial with potential for becoming a full-fledged constitutional monarchy guiding the country’s modernization.

Therefore, although the US spearheaded the opening of feudal Japan in 1853 followed by other western imperial powers, only Britain subsequently succeeded in paving the country’s path toward modernization. This was in part because other imperial powers, particularly the US and Russia, failed to comprehend the political significance of the Japanese emperor and often resorted to the classic imperial strategy of gunboat diplomacy or territorial aggrandizement. Moreover, Britain’s success was also largely due to its covert support for the simmering samurai revolutionary movement seeking to replace the Shogunate with an imperial system. In fact, the British diplomat Ernest Satow’s anonymous 1866 article for The Japan Times aptly titled, The British Policy, even provided a blueprint for Japan’s modernization program which directly inspired the subsequent regime change during the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Britain’s engagement with modern Japan thus began with the forging of a special relationship between the royal families of the two empires. After the Meiji Restoration, Britain became the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the Empire of Japan, leading Queen Victoria to personally send a missive to the newly-crowned Emperor Meiji. Imperial Japan’s successive feats, especially the promulgation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan in 1889 and the victory over the Qing Dynasty China in 1895 drove London to increasingly view the nascent Asian empire as an equal partner, culminating in the formation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, Britain’s first military alliance with a non-western power. The burgeoning Anglo-Japanese special relationship reached its zenith with Japan’s triumph over the Russian Empire in 1905, leading King Edward VII to induct Meiji Emperor into the Most Noble Order of Garter in 1906.

While the two empires later plunged into the abyss of WWII, their royal bond thrived during the interwar period. Indeed, the British monarchs continued to admit the Japanese emperors into the Most Noble Order of Garter despite the brief suspension of Emperor Hirohito’s membership due to WWII. To this day, the Imperial Japanese Family remains the only non-western monarchy bestowed with such an accolade. The two royal families also continued their private correspondence throughout the 1920s and 30s, and King George VI even sent a congratulatory telegram for Prince Mikasa on his marriage just two months before Imperial Japan assaulted the British colony of Malaya in December 1941. The British King’s gesture would ensure the enduring significance of royal fraternity transcending even the troubled fates of the two empires.

Indeed, King George VI’s successor, Queen Elizabeth II, inherited his spirit of amity with Japan and demonstrated extraordinary leadership in resurrecting the Anglo-Japanese special relationship from the ashes of WWII. Her Majesty invited 19-year old Crown Prince Akihito to her coronation in 1953, only a year after Japan regained its sovereignty. While the queen reportedly demonstrated aloofness toward the young Japanese prince during the coronation ceremony likely out of consideration for the vehement anti-Japanese sentiment at home, she later privately summoned him at the Royal Box at the Epsom Derby for the honor of watching the horse race together. This subtle act was the genesis of the revived Anglo-Japanese special relationship for the postwar era, leaving a lasting impression on the future Japanese emperor.

Queen Elizabeth II also played an indispensable role in overcoming the emotional scars from WWII in Britain. Anti-Japanese sentiments endured in Britain for decades after WWII due to the memories of Imperial Japan’s brutality toward British prisoners of war (POWs) in Southeast Asia, particularly Burma. Queen Elizabeth II personally sought a historical reconciliation with Japan by inviting its wartime monarch, Emperor Hirohito to Britain in 1971 and even restored his membership in the Most Noble Order of Garter. She then followed up by visiting Japan in 1975 for a historic royal summit with the Japanese emperor. When Emperor Akihito visited Britain in 1998, Queen Elizabeth II personally protected the Japanese emperor from the former British POWs leading anti-Japanese demonstrations along the royal parade to Buckingham Palace.

Ultimately, the real significance of Queen Elizabeth II’s leadership in the postwar Anglo-Japanese special relationship was to be found in her inimitable role in consummating Japan’s geostrategic reorientation as Asia’s preeminent sea power for the new epoch. In fact, while the US succeeded in its nation-building program for postwar Japan largely through social engineering, Washington’s artificial construct hardly guaranteed the defeated country’s enduring future as a sea power even despite the bilateral treaty alliance. After all, sea power is more than an institutional construct and is ultimately a national culture deeply rooted in the western tradition of liberalism and democracy as argued by the 19th-century American naval strategist Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. Imperial Japan was once on its path toward a full-fledged sea power under the guidance of its Emperors and their Anglophile ministers before deviating from the course as the royal power weakened over time especially after the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1923. Imperial Japan’s experience set an ominous precedent for its postwar successor which further restricted the authority of the Imperial Family. Therefore, Queen Elizabeth II’s proactive engagement with the Imperial Japanese Family beginning in 1953 renewed the sense of national pride and reverence for the revived Anglo-Japanese special relationship among the majority of Japanese, leading them to embrace their country’s newfound identity as America’s key sea power ally in Asia.

When Crown Prince Hirohito visited Britain in 1921, King George V personally lectured the young Japanese prince on his philosophy of constitutional monarchy. Having weathered the period of purgatory of war during his early reign, Emperor Hirohito then imparted to Queen Elizabeth II during her first and only visit to Japan in 1975 the same wisdom he had received from her grandfather half a century earlier. Queen Elizabeth II’s royal summit with Emperor Hirohito in Tokyo epitomized the inviolable continuity of the Anglo-Japanese special relationship. Its history ultimately revolves around the enduring royal fraternity guided by the shared vision for constitutional monarchy. It simultaneously underscores the finesse and shrewdness of British power which laid the foundation for modern Japan. Indeed, Imperial Japan’s rise as one of the world’s preeminent naval powers and its successor’s resurrection as an indispensable ally of the US were inextricable from the evolution of the Anglo-Japanese special relationship led by the two royal families. Queen Elizabeth II, in particular, played a pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of history between the two former adversarial empires. Her Majesty’s legacy is monumental given postwar Japan’s re-emergence as America’s leading sea power ally in Asia and shall undoubtedly resonate well with those pondering on the future of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific for years to come.

News You May Have Missed

Chinese Rival to Boeing 737 Approaches Domestic Certification

In the wake of Boeing announcing the reassignment of Chinese-ordered 737 MAX jets, due to a trade ban, Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC has flown two C919 planes to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) for the plane’s type certification by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. COMAC announced on July 23 after five years of test flights that the new narrow-body jet has completed all necessary test flights. The C919 was designed to compete with the American-made Boeing 737 MAX and the French-made Airbus A320neo family of narrow-body jets. The Chinese government has sunk between USD $49 billion-$72 billion into COMAC. While Boeing and Airbus are not worried for now that the C919 will capture a large market share, there is concern that the Chinese government will force Chinese airlines to fly the jet.

New Zealand’s Plain Language Bill Promotes an End to the Use of Jargon

New Zealand’s parliament will be voting on legislation commonly known as the Plain Language Bill which intends to make official documents more digestible for the average citizen by reducing the use of jargon. Supporters of the bill hope that by simplifying the text of official documents the measure will improve transparency and communication between the government and the people, promoting democracy and boosting confidence in government. Those who oppose the bill believe that its passage would be more trouble than it is worth; they argue that it would cause an increase in expenditures due to the need for staff to monitor the use of plain language. Furthermore, critics say the bill may not achieve its goal of reducing confusion, as simplifying language does not automatically establish clarity.

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



CSPC is a 501(c)3, non-partisan organization that seeks to apply lessons of history and leadership to today's challenges

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CSPC is a 501(c)3, non-partisan organization that seeks to apply lessons of history and leadership to today's challenges