Why Obama Needs To Lean In On This Asia Trip
This OpEd was originally published on the Foreign Policy website.
Reassuring anxious allies that there will be no "Asian Crimea" will be the purpose of President Barack Obama's trip across the Pacific starting April 23. No Asian nation wants to forfeit its independence to a new Middle Kingdom, just as no European nation wants to be part of a new Russian empire. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call that we live in a dangerous world of great power revanchism and territorial conflict -- trends that are even more acute in Asia. Rather than "pivot" to any region, the president must make clear that the United States will not make strategic choices that leave its allies at the mercy of regional predators.
Worried Asians are not alone in their anxiety over Washington's commitment to deter great power adventurism. In the Middle East, U.S. allies are pursuing independent strategies to guard against Iranian hegemony and Islamic extremism following a perceived U.S. retreat from the region. Russia's military occupation of Ukrainian territory challenges the American commitment to a Europe whole and free. Meanwhile, in Asia -- where there is no overarching alliance like NATO to restrain revisionist powers -- anxious allies wonder how far U.S. security guarantees will stretch before they break.
Where America's friends fear a vacuum of power, competitors see room to push out. China is aggressively modernizing the world's largest military and deploying weapons expressly designed to strike U.S. forces. Beijing is using gunboat diplomacy to carve out a sphere of influence over Japanese islands in the East China Sea and some of the world's most strategic waterways in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the U.S. defense budget is on course to be cut by a cool trillion dollars -- just as a quarter century of great-power peace is eroding.
Some fine speeches have been given by President Obama and his officials on U.S.-Asia strategy since announcing a strategic "pivot" to the region in 2011. But as retired Japanese diplomat Yukio Okamoto told Reuters, "We do not see any actual sign" of the policy's implementation. A new report on the rebalance by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee makes the point: "Sweeping speeches and policy pronouncements unsupported by hard deliverables create a large gap between expectations and reality."
Read the complete article here.
predominant powers of the Indo-Pacific littoral – India and Japan. In short, there is more at stake for Indian voters in the upcoming elections than their own domestic politics.
Dan Twining is a senior Fellow on GMF's Asia Program.