From Maritime Security to European Seapower

The Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond conducts an exercise with French Navy. Image: LA(Phot) Weatherston/Flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 3 December, 2014. Republished with permission.

Maritime security is the new buzz-phrase in Brussels policy circles. 2014 has witnessed the publication of the EU’s first maritime security strategy. This strategy is premised upon the assumption that maritime security is a comprehensive business that covers a wide range of issues, from harbour safety, biodiversity conservation and the control of illegal fishing, through to piracy, all the way up to the support of crisis management operations. This emphasis on comprehensiveness is hardly surprising. The comprehensive approach is part of the European Union’s (EU) DNA, and it permeates through pretty much every instance of the newly adopted maritime security strategy. » More

Chinese Firm Planning a Canal Through Nicaragua Has PLA Ties

The proposed canal routes (red) crossing through Nicaragua. The Panama canal is marked blue. Image: Soefrm/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Offiziere.ch on 5 December, 2014.

A Chinese company is preparing to begin work on the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal. Once — and if — the canal is ever finished, it will size up to more than 170 miles (about 275 km) and connect the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, with Lake Nicaragua in the middle. It’s a major project — larger than any other geo-engineering project underway in the world. Officially, it’s an opportunity for development championed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. But critics look at the canal as a boondoggle, and a means by which Ortega is developing a long-term relationship with Beijing — and China’s geopolitical interests. The builders of the canal also have important ties with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). » More

Indonesia’s Seaward Shift: A Break from the Past

Pinisi ships dock at the Sunda Kelapa Harbor, Jakarta. Image: Phinisi#11/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by CIMSEC on 4 December, 2014.

In his inaugural speech as the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo communicated a vision of prosperity for his country based on a tradition of maritime trade. Indonesia, he said, is to become a sea-going trading power once again. With a new Ministry of Maritime Affairs and a US $6 billion investment in maritime infrastructure, he’s putting his proverbial money where his mouth is. While this seems like an obvious path for archipelagic Indonesia to take, there are very important reasons why this signals a profound shift in the strategic thinking of the country from an internal threat perception to an external one. Although some analysts believe Jokowi’s pronouncement is code for abandonment of Indonesia’s non-alignment policy, it is likely his words had nothing to do with external actors and everything to do with growing confidence in Indonesia’s democracy to effectively address its historically troubled internal security. » More

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Nation-Building: A Forgotten Aspect of the Vietnam War

South Vietnamese Lt. General Ngo Quang Truong honors American soldiers. Image: tommy japan/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Defence-In-Depth on 8 December 2014.

While the debate over American strategy in the Vietnam War has been long and bitter, it has also been strangely constricted. This stems in part from the fact it has largely been an anguished dialogue among Americans searching for the reasons which underlay their nation’s defeat. This means that a lot of research into the Vietnam War ultimately seems to boil down to a search for villains – be they firepower-mad generals, feckless politicians, or corrupt and incompetent local allies. » More

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Post-Big Bang Expansion, is EU Overcorrecting with the Western Balkans?

EU – Kosovo – wall painting outside Peje (Pec), Kosovo. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Friends of Europe on 25 November, 2014.

“Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Bob Dylan

The perspective of joining the European family has proven to be the most effective mobilising factor to stabilise and reform the Balkans. It’s replaced the dark scenario of conflicts sparked by efforts to redraw borders along ethnic lines. It has undoubtedly been the EU’s most powerful geopolitical instrument, the latest illustration being the brokered Belgrade-Pristina agreement. Before the process reached the point of no return, however, the enlargement policy has been challenged, accession hopes dangerously watered down and the door slammed shut, for now. » More

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