- Young Professionals Summit
Session Descriptions 2013
A Fragile World after the Crisis
The worst of the economic crisis seems to be over. While national debt and unemployment numbers in the United States and Europe are still high, stock markets are up and a break-up of the eurozone seems to be off the table. In addition, growth projections for many emerging economies look positive. But statistics only tell half the story.
The crisis reshuffled the global geopolitical equilibrium. It revealed weaknesses in systems and models. In the United States, a highly polarized political system seems to maneuver from one fiscal cliff to the next, while the EU is facing an existential moment as the United Kingdom is reconsidering its relationship with the Union. Emerging economies like China and Brazil have positioned themselves as credible alternatives on the world stage and have become indispensable interlocutors in global affairs but have yet to develop a real leadership role.
In addition to governance challenges, economic threats became more important. While in the past, these threats were mainly confined to protectionism and corporate espionage, the financial crisis revealed the destructive powers and vulnerabilities of financial systems, networks, data, corridors, heavy industry, cyberspace, currencies, and central banks. Economic, monetary, and industrial policies have therefore become as strategic as foreign and security policy.
The world is still fragile and any new shock — no matter whether economic or security related — might push the system completely off track. Against this background, questions arise around the trajectory of the global system and the players leading this system.
- Economic and political stability in the United States and Europe have long been seen as the prerequisite for global stability. Will they get their respective houses in order, and if so, what will these houses look like?
- Which policy areas provide the biggest challenges to the global system? Which areas provide the greatest opportunity to bring the system back on track?
- Who will lead the world? Will there be one or two superpowers to drive global events or will there be a number of changing alliances?
From Mali to Syria: Dealing with a Troubled Neighborhood
The many seasons of the Arab Spring continue to highlight the risks for international stability looming from Europe’s southern neighborhood, while simultaneously underlining the hard truth that both action and inaction may have unintended consequences. The best approach to containing emergent crises may therefore be to demonstrate coherent transatlantic resolve. Transitioning the region away from its corrosive volatility, however, may require a longer term multilateral multi-level engagement.
The incremental socio-religious radicalization and the nexus of banditry and terrorism that had coalesced in the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group were, in Mali and across the Sahel region, currents that predated the Arab Spring. It was, however, the disruption to the precarious balance of power in Northern Mali, caused by the fall of the Gaddafi regime, that precipitated the sequence of events necessitating French intervention to safeguard Bamako and the Mali Government. France’s action in Mali can thus be sourced back to the unintended and unanticipated consequences of the NATO action in Libya; will the French operation have similar consequences, or will it contribute to longer term stabilization of the region?
Undesirable, if not completely unanticipated, consequences of transatlantic reluctance and/or lack of means for convincing stands, are plainly evident in Syria, at the other end of the Southern Mediterranean neighborhood. As early as the summer of 2011, months after the start of widespread protests in Syria, leaders of the transatlantic alliance voiced their desire to see Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad step down and allow for an orderly transition. Instead Assad escalated the use of force. Yet, the transatlantic alliance seems to have little to offer to mitigate the movements of both foes (Russia, Iran) and friends (Qatar, Saudi Arabia), which seem to be dooming Syria and its vicinity to a grim immediate future, and seems to have settled on a mostly reactive set of policies to manage the other regional hotspots. Crisis management with the aim of containment seems to be the undeclared aim in the Middle East of a second Obama administration, which is more consumed with Asia. A recurrent argument in Europe, on the other hand, notes that the positive role of Algeria in the Mali episode, and the success of the otherwise autocratically bent President Mohamed Mursi of Egypt in delivering a cease-fire in Gaza, call for a reconsideration of the assumption that the Arab Spring may necessitate a paradigm shift in policy away from the realism of engaging less than savory governments.
- Was the lack of decisive action in the transatlantic community on Syria a result of choice or limitations? Was it the outcome of a reasoned calculation in a high-risk low-reward situation, however faulty in retrospect, or is Syria proof that the unipolar world order has already expired? What are the roles of Russia and China, and of Turkey and Iran, in a rebalanced world order attempting to tackle the Syrian crisis?
- Did Mali benefit from lessons learned in Libya? What measures can, have, and will be taken to avoid a spillover effect in West Africa?
- How can Arab Spring countries be encouraged toward an order more in line with their own interests and those of Europe and the global community? What role will civil society play?
- Since engagement seems to be all pain and no gain, is disengagement a valid option? What are the forms and consequences of partial and total disengagements?
- Does the United States’ new light-footprint approach mean a disengagement from the region? Is Europe filling an opportunity gap in the region, and can France lead the European efforts in the region? What does the relative lack of European unity in the region say about Europe as a strategic actor?
Europe North, Europe South-Clash of Civilizations
Some argue that the worst of the euro crisis may be over, but Southern Europe is hardly out of the woods. The crisis affecting Mediterranean countries from Portugal to Greece is not just economic, but also social and political, and may be structural. Many of Mediterranean Europe’s weaknesses — from low competitiveness to high unemployment — are likely to remain even if austerity grows roots and EU solidarity increases. But the latter is far from assured. Voices pointing at a widening divide between a wealthier and allegedly more efficient Northern Europe and an inherently profligate and weak Southern Europe have gained strength in the European debate. The risk that most recent economic challenges feed a sense of growing estrangement and otherness, or outright contempt, is concrete.
- Is the Southern European predicament one of economic decline, increased political instability, and marginalization within the EU?
- Is there hope for the “PIGS” (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) for a comeback that demystifies common negative prejudices about Mediterranean societies?
- What are the chances that even as Europe recovers, a “clash of civilizations” will undermine European unity moving forward?
Can Wider Europe Emerge from East-West Power Politics?
The collapse of the Berlin Wall launched an incomplete process of political transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. A number of countries in this region completed their Euroatlantic integration and joined the EU and NATO. However, a band of states “in between” were left without a clear path to security and prosperity within Europe.
Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan — the group of states also known as the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood — remain countries in transition. Diverging foreign policy orientations, unresolved conflicts, inefficient economies, and a very low level of inter-state cooperation fragment and polarize the region. In addition, Russia is resurgent with a leadership seeking to limit its neighbors’ European integration and to have them integrated into the Eurasian Union, while the European Union’s strategy seems hobbled by growing fatigue and distraction. When combined with the global economic slowdown and uncertainty regarding the steadfastness of U.S. and NATO policy in the region, these trends fuel new questions about the future of these lands in the middle.
Since its 2004 enlargement, the EU has considerably stepped up its efforts and created an Eastern Partnership strategy to support political and economic reform in its six eastern neighbors. But the influence of that strategy has been limited and has been criticized for not offering a membership perspective, thus limiting the incentives for the partner countries to quickly implement effective action plans. As a result, reform processes unfold slowly and the democratic credentials of ruling elites in the neighborhood countries remain doubtful.
This year is going to be a decisive year for the Eastern Partnership countries. While their negotiations on Association Agreements, including deep and comprehensive free trade areas, with the EU are reaching final stage, the counter offer by Russia is becoming more prominent as well. As EU leaders are preparing to intensify the development of the Eastern Partnership strategy at a summit in November 2013 in Vilnius, they will need to provide more clarity on the longer term vision for the region. It is still not clear if EU membership perspective for the Eastern Partnership countries finds its place there. If not, alternative benefits to enlargement should be identified, if Europe is to remain an attractive partner for its eastern neighbors.
Europe and the United States share an interest in the prosperity and security of Eastern Europe. From democracy and good governance to energy security, conflict resolution, taming transnational organized crime, and socio-economic development, the transformation of Eastern Europe remains unfinished business. The transatlantic partners should work together to avoid a region paralyzed and stuck between East and West, that will remain a potential source of insecurity in Europe.
- While Europe muddles through its own historic crisis, will it be strong enough to show leadership and drive the policy process in its Eastern Neighborhood?
- If not enlargement, what can the states in the eastern periphery expect from Europe? Is the Eastern Partnership still a credible model that can provide an alternative to Russia’s influence in the region?
- Will President Obama’s pursuit of renewed progress in relations with Russia lead to the United States’ political disengagement from Eastern Europe?
- What is the way forward for the transatlantic partners to engage with Russia and the Eastern Partnership countries themselves in order to improve economic growth and security in the region?
Race to the Arctic
As the Arctic is warming twice as much as the rest of the planet, rapid ice melting and the prediction of ice-free summers by as early as 2030 has dramatically changed how we view the geopolitical and geoeconomic relevance of the region. What used to be the least explored part of the world and considered an uninhabitable, remote outpost now mobilizes considerable strategic, commercial, economic, and even military considerations.
As the frozen tundra retreats northwards, large areas of Russia and Canada may soon become suitable for agriculture. The Arctic is also a huge source of minerals including zinc in Alaska, iron in Sweden, or nickel in Russia. Large reserves of oil and gas now also become more accessible. Exploration licenses have already been issued in the United States, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. ExxonMobil and Rosneft agreed on a $500 billion deal to develop offshore fields in the Arctic Kara Sea. Ironically, climate change caused by burning hydrocarbons will now allow more Arctic fossil fuels to be extracted and burned in the atmosphere.
A melting Arctic also has disrupting effects on the geostrategy of global maritime trading routes and port infrastructure. Using the Northern Sea Route cuts the time of voyage between Europe and Asia by one-third. In 2010, only four ships used this passage; last year, 46 did. For Russia, this is a huge opportunity. By developing a viable network of trans- shipment hubs along its northern coastal line, it can export its Arctic resources to demanding markets much faster, and compete for revenues with established shipping lanes such as the Panama or Suez Canals.
Although the discovery of oil, gas, and precious minerals as well as the wish to control new global shipping lanes has revived territorial disputes among the eight Arctic nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States — they are unlikely to go to war with each other. But the Arctic does stir fierce nationalist sentiment in each of these nations and some, such as Norway, Russia, or Canada, have carefully begun to militarize their presence in the region. Moreover, non-Arctic actors such as China, Japan, India, and the European Union have become increasingly vocal on Arctic-related issues and are more and more competing for diplomatic clout over the region, for instance by currently applying for observer status in the Arctic Council.
- How can we reconcile the environmental risks of the melting Arctic with the economic opportunities it will present?
- What will be the global impact be when the Arctic shipping routes are fully developed? How will it affect existing businesses and commercial arteries like the Panama Canal?
- Is the Arctic Council still the best venue to handle questions regarding the Arctic? How will the role of non-Arctic states develop in the future?
- What progress has been made in terms of increased littoral and non-littoral cooperation for surveillance, emergency response, environmental protection, and enforcement?
- What is the role for and responsibilities of commercial industry in helping to develop solutions to some of the emerging challenges and concerns of increased traffic in the Arctic region?
China in Transition
As China experienced its once-in-a-decade handover of power last year, the debate about its economic, social, and political future took center stage both within the country and around the world.
A combination of weak global demand and imbalances within China mean that the country’s rapid growth has started to show signs of slowing. Social unrest on the other hand, is increasing. As the disenfranchised segments of China’s society demand their fair share of the country’s new found wealth, the emerging middle classes too have their demands — better air quality, better working conditions, a greater say in the political process, greater transparency, and less corruption. The leadership transition exposed deep frictions within the party, none more acute than the downfall of Bo Xilai who, in other circumstances might have risen to be one of China’s most powerful leaders.
China faces challenges in its foreign policy too. While the country’s immediate neighborhood had been characterized by relative stability over the last two decades, the last three years have seen it become decidedly more challenging. The U.S. pivot to Asia, territorial disputes with Japan, and spats with its neighbors in Southeast Asia have increased external pressures on China’s leadership while also giving rise to strong nationalist voices within the country. Further afield, accusations that Beijing is pursuing a mercantilist policy during a period of global economic slowdown have caused rifts with major trading partners.
None are more aware of these challenges than those within the country. China’s intellectual scene is characterized by fierce debates about how an economic reform agenda can be revived, what kind of political reform is needed in the decade to come, and what role China will need to take in the international arena in order to facilitate its continued development.
- Will Xi Jinping be able to overcome the vested interests that have been holding back economic reform?
- Will the new leadership be able to break from the relative stasis in political reform that existed under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao?
- Is the Chinese Communist Party still able to adapt to social and economic forces emerging in the country?
- Are European and U.S. policies well-adapted to China’s economic and political changes over the next decade?
Economies in Crisis, Societies in Transition
Five years after the start of the financial crisis, discussions on both sides of the Atlantic have shifted toward broader questions over the role of government in the economy and the limits of political integration. There is now a greater understanding that, both in the United States and Europe, gaps in the making of economic policy led to and exacerbated the economic and banking crises. In Europe, the debt crisis has continuously challenged policymakers to balance between crisis management and the long-term reform of governance structures. And while the United States’ economy has grown steadily in recent months, unemployment has remained high and structural questions about the country’s fiscal situation have thus far been left unanswered. The economic outlook on both sides of the Atlantic remains fragile.
In response to the crises, decisions were made that touched on the very structure of economies. But not only on that. Indeed, decisions on where to invest and where to cut are defining the shape of societies of the future. In restructuring economies recovering from the crisis, Europeans, Americans, and others are in fact restructuring their societies. In Asia and Latin America as well, the social repercussions of the crisis are taking center stage in the political discourse and strategic priorities. While economies are in crisis, societies are in transition.
Reforms of welfare and pension systems, of labor and tax policies, and of public sectors are laying the first stones of new social contracts. The choices of today, which are direct consequences of the crisis, are defining these new social contracts. The difficult balance between reducing debt and stimulating growth, between a sustainable and fair growth, is yet to be found. While some leaders have already announced that the worst is behind us, the toughest decisions may yet lay ahead in rebuilding societies after the crisis.
- How are measures taken today toward creating jobs and growth impacting the structure of societies? Which social acquis are societies willing to compromise on for the sake of economic recovery?
- Where should governments save and where should they invest? What roles are there for governments and the private sector in defining priorities toward recovery?
- Are the needs of economic actors shaping the very structure of societies? How can businesses and industries contribute to strategic reforms of labor markets?
- What will be the place for the welfare state? Are current European socio-economic models unsustainable and obsolete?
- Is fair sustainable and green growth really the solution? How will it impact other policy concerns such as employment, housing, and consumption?
- What place is there for social and labor policies on the agenda of G20 countries? Which transitions are their societies facing in the wake of the crisis, and which lessons are to be learned?
- Has the crisis fundamentally changed the relationship between governments and their peoples?
The Future of Euroatlantic Integration
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the bipolar world, the nature of the Euroatlantic relationship has changed dramatically. If for over 40 years its main purpose had been relatively straightforward, namely to protect Europe from a well-defined adversary (the Soviet Union), today Europe and the United States are faced with a rapidly changing world necessitating new ways in which they will cooperate.
Put at its simplest, Euroatlantic integration refers to the inclusion of countries in NATO and the EU. Over the past decade, the spectacular enlargement of these institutions has created a web of alliances that has generated more stability, democracy, and prosperity for all the members of the community. However, given the absence of enlargement progress in the May 2012 NATO summit and enlargement fatigue in the European Union, it is time to reconsider the future of Euroatlantic integration.
Indeed, questions loom large over what effect the current disorder and fragility of our global environment will have on the European nations, the United States, and on the institutions binding them. The financial crisis is forcing the Euroatlantic community to slim down while it struggles to stay relevant. And the shift of gravity in world politics, driven by the developments in Asia, has left the partners seemingly out of love with Americans, who were pointed at for redeploying their capabilities away from Europe, and Europeans, who were being questioned for having lost their attractiveness and leadership role. These trends have effectively complicated the further enlargement of the Euroatlantic community.
Nevertheless, the future integration of new member states remains of key importance if the EU and NATO are to remain credible proponents of stability, democracy, and prosperity. And a variety of nations are still ready to make the essential political and economic changes in order to become members of a wider Euroatlantic community. This is, for instance, especially true in the Western Balkans, where integration prospects are gradually transforming all countries of the region from being weary security consumers into societies that are pursuing democratic reforms, strengthening the rule of law, and fostering regional cooperation.
The Euroatlantic community faces new and different challenges in the 21st century. Meeting these challenges while keeping an open-door policy towards new nations, will require new approaches and concerted efforts by the community’s members.
- What are the deep currents of change, and how might they reshape the Euroatlantic community over the coming decade? Will they draw Europeans and Americans together or drive them apart?
- Will the EU and NATO overcome their enlargement fatigue, and what prospects of further enlargement can still be offered to nations aspiring to membership?
- How can further enlargement help the Euroatlantic community address 21st century challenges ranging from redressing weak and collapsing states to energy security to dealing with global economic competition?
Growing U.S. Energy Self-sufficiency and the Global Consequences
The United States is well on its way to becoming largely self-sufficient in oil and gas and could overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest supplier of hydrocarbons by 2020. Even if U.S. energy independence is still some time away, this is nonetheless a stunning turnaround from decades of U.S. dependence on imported energy sources and all the attendant geopolitical concerns. The change has been driven in part by innovative methods of exploration and extraction of fossil fuels such as shale gas from hydraulic fracturing. In a development entirely unforeseen five years ago, this has caused natural gas supplies in the United States to soar and prices to drop. Europe, in contrast, must pay four to five times more for its natural gas and has become one of the biggest importers of U.S. coal, which is experiencing a sharp decline in its share of U.S. electricity generation as power is increasingly supplied by natural gas. This increasing availability of cheap electricity is helping to bring new vigor to the U.S. economy and there are signs of new manufacturing life in old industrial regions as energy-intensive industries like petrochemicals are finding the United States a more competitive place to do business.
These developments have profound consequences not just for the United States but also the rest of the world. Successive U.S. presidents have called for U.S. energy independence since the oil embargoes of the 1970s — and this dream now seems to be closer to reality. The concern to avoid a repeat of the economic shock caused by energy shortages, both in the United States and in its allies in Europe, has helped drive U.S. foreign engagement since the 1970s. An energy- independent United States might feel itself inoculated from the threat of a new energy embargo and therefore less threatened by developments beyond its borders, but equally it might find its international influence enhanced if its economy lifts on the tide of a new energy boom. Although the implications are uncertain, the growing self-sufficiency of the United States will have geopolitical implications.
Equally, the U.S. energy boom has unclear implications for the global fight against climate change. Natural gas has lower emissions of greenhouse gases than coal, and it could serve as a “bridge” fuel to the development of a low-carbon energy system. But low natural gas prices could shut renewable energy technologies out of the U.S. electricity market. U.S. investment in new energy technologies — a major driver of global innovation in renewable energy — is threatened by declining levels of public funding for research and development. In any case, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are falling, thanks in part to the natural gas boom. But Europe is struggling to set its own climate change targets for the period beyond 2020 and faces an impossible task in persuading the rest of the world to taking the necessary steps to tackle climate change without U.S. support. It is difficult to predict how the transformation of the U.S. energy sector will affect the transatlantic debate on the urgency and feasibility of tackling climate change.
- Will the abundance of oil and gas from new and unconventional sources lessen U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East and other sensitive and energy-rich parts of the world?
- Will the United States become more competitive vis-à-vis its economic partners and rivals in Europe and Asia?
- What does the booming oil and gas sector mean for the (also rapidly growing) renewable energy sector?
- What kind of changes to the energy sector can we expect in the future?
- What does growing U.S. energy self-sufficiency mean for transatlantic cooperation on the fight against climate change?
After the Revolutions: What Next for the Middle East and North Africa?
With economic recovery still sluggish in the United States and Europe still dealing with its economic crisis, the European Union and the United States have jointly decided to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to boost jobs and growth. The case for such an agreement is strong. Although trade barriers are already low, the sheer size of the transatlantic economy —$30 trillion — means that even small improvements can yield significant gains. With half of the world GDP, one-third of world trade flows and 15 million jobs linked to it, the transatlantic economy is still the driver of the world economy. A Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would thus have global implications and could also deliver much needed progress for global trade.
None of this will be easy and some of the thorniest hurdles remain to be solved. Support by political and business leadership will thus be crucial in jumpstarting the talks and in ensuring that they lead to a mutually beneficial agreement. In the end, a successful agreement would not only deliver significant economic gains, but could also be an opportunity to breathe new life into the transatlantic relationship more broadly.
- What are the main hurdles on the way to an agreement? How realistic are the expectations that an agreement can bring down significant non-tariff barriers? Could discussions on agriculture lead to an impasse?
- Is there sufficient political will and commitment to get this done on both sides of the Atlantic?
- What would be the impact of a trade agreement on the United States’ and EU’s approach to multilateral trade negotiations, to other bilateral and regional trade agreements, to dealing with China, India and other emerging markets? What would be its geostrategic benefits?
- Will this agreement enhance the transatlantic economy’s role in global affairs or merely slow the decline of U.S. and European influence?
The Advent of the Armed Drone
The use of remotely piloted vehicles, or “drones,” for both surveillance and attack has provided a challenging set of policy, legal, and ethical issues for strategists as well as security and defense planners. The use of armed drones has also raised significant concerns about the use of armed force, particularly when employed outside of internationally recognized zones of armed conflict. Recent public opinion studies have indicated that the U.S. drone attacks are increasingly unpopular around the world. Their use has reopened debates about “who” is a combatant and “what” constitutes adequate civilian oversight of military operations. Some argue that drones even make war more likely — that they lower the threshold for conflict. Indeed, without robust dialogue amongst NATO members regarding the use of these weapons, it is possible that there could be direct or indirect barriers to alliance planning, acquisition, strategy, and even operations. With worldwide spending on drones likely to double over the next ten years, and more nations certain to acquire “armed drones,” the political and operational challenges may only get more complex.
- Do drone strikes provide a compelling option in conventional armed conflict and when battling terrorist networks, or do the controversy and blowback they generate outweigh the benefit?
- In what ways is this a “new” or “unique” problem and to what degree is this simply the latest manifestation of the challenges faced by our predecessors (e.g. bomber aircraft, nuclear weapons)?
- What dangers exist in creating a “new normal” for the use of drones outside of internationally recognized armed conflicts? What should international norms look like? Is there already a new standard for the use of force?
- What circumstances or conditions impact the legitimacy or illegitimacy of drone use? Is it an issue of targets and transparency rather than the technology?
- Are political leaders or the public too enamored with the prospect of armed drones? Do they make war too easy?
The State of the Eurozone
As Europe’s crisis has lingered, a form of crisis routine has set in. Over the past year, dramatic situations in Greece, Spain, and Italy have been followed by periods of relative calm. But, recent elections in Italy and political turmoil in Spain have once again spurred concerns over the direction of Europe’s third and fourth largest economies. At the same time, Cyprus has been struggling to avoid bankruptcy and is seeking a bailout. Unemployment numbers for some countries also remain at record highs and the latest economic forecast by the EU Commission sees the eurozone’s economy contracting in 2013.
Meanwhile, European leaders at an EU summit in June 2012 agreed on important steps to further integrate the eurozone. Some aspects of this, like the proposed banking union, have begun to take shape, while other decisions pertaining to a closer political and fiscal union have been pushed back for now. In the long run, genuine economic and monetary union remains the goal. As this new European governance structure emerges, many questions regarding the lack of economic growth, increasing political divisions, and issues of democratic legitimacy remain.
- To some observers the immediate crisis is over. But is the relative stability of recent months resilient or is Europe just taking a breather until the next wave or market test?
- With important elections in Germany on the horizon, will Europe be able to take the momentous steps required to solve the crisis once and for all or will a state of crisis become the new normal for the continent?
- As Britain is reviewing its relationship with the continent and a multi-speed EU seems increasingly likely, how many different Europes can be sustained? And what do the different circles of European integration mean for transatlantic relations?
Strategic Stability in the Asia Pacific
Tensions in the Asia-Pacific have risen over the past year, driven by nationalism, political transitions, military modernization, and resource competition. Conflicting claims over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands led to widespread protests in China against Japanese companies and individuals, straining ties between the region’s two largest economies. Beijing’s resuscitation of the Nine-Dotted Line — its claimed maritime boundary in the South China Sea — has also stoked tensions with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. Russia and Japan have failed to resolve competing claims over the Kuril Islands. South and North Korea are still facing one another eyeball-to-eyeball across the De-Militarized Zone, with North Korea conducting it third nuclear test earlier this year. The prospect of conflict over the Taiwan Straits may have temporarily diminished but has not entirely dissipated. And China and India have so far failed to resolve their long-contested land border.
While many of these disputes are longstanding, they have gained increased importance as Asia has become the primary driver of global economic growth. Not only are China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Southeast Asia integral parts of the global supply chain, Asia’s waters are now a conduit for almost half of global trade. The preservation of strategic stability in Asia is no longer simply a regional concern, but a global one, including for the United States and Europe as the world’s two largest economies.
The region’s rapid economic growth has also enabled Asian powers to expand and enhance their military power. China’s defense spending has grown in double-digits concomitant to its rapid economic expansion, and the induction of an aircraft carrier and a next-generation combat aircraft into its military are signs of its newfound military prowess. Other countries are responding. India is now the world’s largest arms importer, Japan’s leaders have given greater thought to their country’s overt remilitarization, while Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are also expanding their capabilities in the military realm. Two further drivers of security competition are political transitions and competition over resources. China’s leadership transition has introduced some uncertainty about its future trajectory and intentions. Japan and South Korea, which both recently held elections, have seen their electorates return parties to power that have traditionally placed a greater emphasis on national security. And finally, recent disputes over oil drilling rights and rare earth exports have underscored the possibility of competition over resources to meet Asia’s growing demand for raw materials.
- Will the Asia-Pacific’s growing tensions result in outright zero-sum competition? What disputes are the cause for greatest concern and how might they be successfully addressed?
- What will be the impact of greater security competition for the global economy? How might it implicate the United States and Europe?
- What approaches — demilitarization and arms control, greater transparency, or institutional competition — will be most useful in managing competition in the Asia-Pacific? Or is greater adversity inevitable given the rapid rise of competing powers?
What does Europe want from the United States?
For the last decade, much of the transatlantic discourse has been driven by the question of what European partners can do to support U.S. strategy in key regions, and on critical issues. Successive U.S. administrations have pressed European governments to increase their defense spending, enlarge and extend their commitments in Afghanistan, and uphold a common front on the Iranian nuclear challenge. In the Balkans and North Africa, the United States has grown increasingly comfortable with the idea of Europe taking the lead. Absorbed with its own economic challenges since 2008, the United States has taken an arms-length approach to Europe’s financial and political travails, but with a clear preference for stimulus over austerity. On a range of global issues, including climate policy, Washington has been reluctant to embrace an ambitious approach. The growing U.S. attention to Asia in strategic terms has only reinforced Washington’s interest in seeing Europe emerge as a more active and capable global actor. It has also spurred European anxiety about changing U.S. priorities.
The United States continues to ask a lot from Europe. But what does Europe want from the United States? The question is a critical one as a second Obama administration looks toward a more cautious and restrained use of U.S. power and considers the extent of its engagement from the Middle East peace process to energy policy, from trade to arms control. The next decade could see rising European demands on an increasingly reluctant United States.
- What are the key items on the European agenda where U.S. cooperation will be critical?
- What will key European partners want from Washington on trade, arms control, and regional security?
- To what extent does the “style” of U.S. policy matter? What kind of United States does Europe want?
- Who should drive European strategy toward the United States? Who will drive it? Will Washington listen?
The Global Atlantic: New Actors in an Old Sea
The Atlantic area is an ever more dynamic and crowded neighborhood in a shrinking world. During the 20th century, its center of gravity was firmly in the North, with the United States and Europe dominating the region and radiating globalization from the basin outward. The 21st century is so far featuring a rebalancing of relations across the basin, with the emerging markets of Latin America and Africa gaining a more prominent role vis a vis challenged Northern Atlantic economies. As political development and the spread of capital, technology, and knowledge empower Southern Atlantic societies, South Africa, the new Brazil, and Mexico, among others, are looking for new venues of influence through the Atlantic highways. At the same time, Atlantic resources, from raw materials to energy, are making the basin a key arena of global competition. China’s investment and presence in the Americas is more recent than in Africa but is rapidly expanding. India is following suit. And so are others, bringing globalization back to where it started.
- What are the implications of a more global Atlantic for the world economy and world politics?
- Will the new Atlantic be more multipolar, more interdependent, or both?
- What do new actors want? And what does this mean for North Atlantic countries?
- Are new trends strengthening the rationale for cooperation, or creating the conditions for future conflicts?