Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Problem With Europe

By George Friedman - , June 17, 2008

The creation of a European state was severely wounded if not killed last week. The Irish voted against a proposed European Union treaty that included creation of a full-time president, increased power to pursue a European foreign policy and increased power for Europe’s parliament. Since the European constitutional process depends on unanimous consent by all 27 members, the Irish vote effectively sinks this version of the new constitution, much as Dutch and French voters sank the previous version in 2005.

The Irish vote was not a landslide. Only 54 percent of the voters cast their ballots against the constitution. But that misses the point. Whether it had been 54 percent for or against the constitution, the point was that the Irish were deeply divided. In every country, there is at least a substantial minority that opposes the constitution. Given that all 27 EU countries must approve the constitution, the odds against some country not sinking it are pretty long. The Europeans are not going to get a strengthened constitution this way.

But the deeper point is that you can’t create a constitution without a deep consensus about needing it. Even when there is — as the United States showed during its Civil War — critical details not settled by consensus can lead to conflict. In the case of the United States, the issues of the relative power of states and the federal government, along with the question of slavery, ripped the country apart. They could only be settled by war and a series of amendments to the U.S. Constitution forced through by the winning side after the war.

The Constitutional Challenge

Creating a constitution is not like passing a law — and this treaty was, in all practical terms, a constitution. Constitutions do not represent public policy, but a shared vision of the regime and the purpose of the nation. The U.S. Constitution was born in battle. It emerged from a long war of independence and from the lessons learned in that war about the need for a strong executive to wage war, a strong congress to allocate funds and raise revenue, and a judiciary to interpret the constitution. War, along with the teachings of John Locke, framed the discussions in Philadelphia, because the founders’ experience in a war where there was only a congress and no president convinced them of the need for a strong executive. And even that was not enough to prevent civil war over the issue of state sovereignty versus federal sovereignty. Making a constitution is hard.

The European constitution was also born in battle, but in a different way. For centuries, the Europeans had engaged in increasingly savage wars. The question they wanted to address was how to banish war from Europe. In truth, that decision was not in their hands, but in the hands of Americans and Soviets. But the core issue remained: how to restrain European savagery. The core idea was relatively simple. European wars arose from European divisions; and, for centuries, those divisions ran along national lines. If a United States of Europe could be created on the order of the United States of America, then the endless battling of France, Germany and England would be eliminated.

In the exhaustion of the postwar world — really lasting through the lives of the generation that endured World War II — the concept was deeply seductive. Europe after World War II was exhausted in every sense. It allowed its empires to slip away with a combination of indifference and relief. What Europeans wanted postwar was to make a living and be left alone by ideology and nationalism; they had experienced quite enough of those two. Even France under the influence of Charles de Gaulle, the champion of the idea of the nation-state and its interests, could not arouse a spirit of nationalism anywhere close to what had been.

There is a saying that some people are exhausted and confuse their state with virtue. If that is true, then it is surely true of Europe in the last couple of generations. The European Union reflected these origins. It began as a pact — the European Community — of nations looking to reduce tariff barriers. It evolved into a nearly Europe-wide grouping of countries bound together in a trade bloc, with many of those countries sharing a common currency. Its goal was not the creation of a more perfect union, or, as the Americans put it, a “novus ordo seclorum.” It was not to be the city on the hill. Its commitment was to a more prosperous life, without genocide. Though not exactly inspiring, given the brutality of European history, it was not a trivial goal.

The problem was that when push came to shove, the European Community evolved into the European Union, which consisted of four things:

1. A free trade zone with somewhat synchronized economic polices, not infrequently overridden by the sovereign power of member states.

2. A complex bureaucracy designed to oversee the harmonization of European economies. This was seen as impenetrable and engaged in intensive and intrusive work from the trivial to the extremely significant, charged with defining everything from when a salami may be called a salami and whether Microsoft was a monopoly.

3. A single currency and central bank to which 15 of the 27 EU members subscribed.

4. Had Ireland voted differently, a set of proto-institutions would have been created complete with a presidency and foreign policy chief — which would have given the European Union the trappings of statehood. The president, who would rotate out of office after a short time, would have been the head of one of the EU member states.

Rejecting a European Regime

The Irish referendum was all about transforming the fourth category into a regime. The Irish rejected it not because they objected to the first three sets of solutions — they have become the second-wealthiest country in Europe per capita under their aegis. They objected to it because they did not want to create a European regime. As French and Dutch voters have said before, the Irish said they want a free trade zone. They will put up with the Brussels bureaucracy even though its intrusiveness and lack of accountability troubles them. They can live with a single currency so long as it does not simply become a prisoner of German and French economic policy. But they do not want to create a European state.

The French and German governments do want to create such a state. As with the creation of the United States, the reasons have to do with war, past and future. Franco-German animosity helped created the two world wars of the 20th century. Those two powers now want a framework for preventing war within Europe. They also — particularly the French — want a vehicle for influencing the course of world events. In their view, the European Union, as a whole, has a gross domestic product comparable to that of the United States. It should be the equal of the United States in shaping the world. This isn’t simply a moral position, but a practical one. The United States throws its weight around because it can, frequently harming Europe’s interests. The French and Germans want to control the United States.

To do this, they need to move beyond having an economic union. They need to have a European foreign and defense policy. But before they can have that, they need a European government that can carry out this policy. And before they can have a European government they must have a European regime, before which they must have a European constitution that enumerates the powers of the European president, parliament and courts. They also need to specify how these officials will be chosen.

The French and Germans would welcome all this if they could get it. They know, given population, economic power and so on, that they would dominate the foreign policy created by a European state. Not so the Irish and Danes; they understand they would have little influence on the course of European foreign policy. They already feel the pain of having little influence on European economic policy, particularly the policies of the European Central Bank (ECB). Even the French public has expressed itself in the 2006 election about fears of Brussels and the ECB. But for countries like Ireland and Denmark, each of which fought very hard to create and retain their national sovereignty, merging into a Europe in which they would lose their veto power to a European parliamentary and presidential system is an appalling prospect.

Economists always have trouble understanding nationalism. To an economist, all human beings are concerned with maximizing their own private wealth. Economists can never deal with the empirical fact that this simply isn’t true. Many Irish fought against being cogs in a multinational British Empire. The Danes fought against being absorbed by Germany. The prospect of abandoning the struggle for national sovereignty to Europe is not particularly pleasing, even if it means economic advantage.

Europe is not going to become a nation-state in the way the United States is. It is increasingly clear that Europeans are not going to reach a consensus on a European constitution. They are not in agreement on what European institutions should look like, how elections should be held and, above all, about the relation between individual nations and a central government. The Europeans have achieved all they are going to achieve. They have achieved a free trade zone with a regulatory body managing it. They have created a currency that is optional to EU members, and from which we expect some members to withdraw from at times while others join in. There will be no collective European foreign or defense policy simply because the Europeans do not have a common interest in foreign and defense policy.
Paris Reads the Writing on the Wall

The French have realized this most clearly. Once the strongest advocates of a federated Europe, the French under President Nicolas Sarkozy have started moving toward new strategies. Certainly, they remain committed to the European Union in its current structure, but they no longer expect it to have a single integrated foreign and defense policy. Instead, the French are pursuing initiatives by themselves. One aspect of this involves drawing closer to the United States on some foreign policy issues. Rather than trying to construct a single Europe that might resist the United States — former President Jacques Chirac’s vision — the French are moving to align themselves to some degree with American policies. Iran is an example.

The most intriguing initiative from France is the idea of a Mediterranean union drawing together the countries of the Mediterranean basin, from Algeria to Israel to Turkey. Apart from whether these nations could coexist in such a union, the idea raises the question of whether France (or Italy or Greece) can simultaneously belong to the European Union and another economic union. While questions — such as whether North African access to the French market would provide access to the rest of the European Union — remain to be answered, the Germans have strongly rejected this French vision.

The vision derives directly from French geopolitical reality. To this point, the French focus has been on France as a European country whose primary commitment is to Europe. But France also is a Mediterranean country, with historical ties and interests in the Mediterranean basin. France’s geographical position gives it options, and it has begun examining those options independent of its European partners.

The single most important consequence of the Irish vote is that it makes clear that European political union is not likely to happen. It therefore forces EU members to consider their own foreign and defense policies — and, therefore, their own geopolitical positions. Whether an economic union can survive in a region of political diversity really depends on whether the diversity evolves into rivalry. While that has been European history, it is not clear that Europe has the inclination to resurrect national rivalries.

At the same time, if France does pursue interests independent of the Germans, the question will be this: Will the mutual interest in economic unity override the tendency toward political conflict? The idea was that Europe would moot the question by creating a federation. That isn’t going to happen, so the question is on the table. And that question can be framed simply: When speaking of political and military matters, is it reasonable any longer to use the term Europe to denote a single entity? Europe, as it once was envisioned, appears to have disappeared in Ireland.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Editorial: Religious Persecution

The Jakartapost, Fri, 04/18/2008 10:05 AM | Opinion

Here is an important announcement. Indonesia has officially stopped being the tolerant nation it has always proclaimed to be, especially when it comes to religion. The country with the world's largest Muslim population, one that has long prided itself for its diversity and peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths, is no longer a safe place, particularly for religious minorities.

Never mind what the Constitution and the state ideology Pancasila say -- that freedom of religion is guaranteed and that citizens are protected to practice their faith. Today, those are mere ornamental words. The reality on the ground is the state has started to persecute people for their religious beliefs.

On Wednesday, a government panel decided that Ahmadiyah, a Muslim sect that has its origins in India but now has followers worldwide, including in Indonesia, is heretic and contravenes the tenets of Islam. The Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs -- comprising government prosecutors, police and officials of the religious affairs and home ministries -- issued a recommendation that Ahmadiyah, as a religious organization, be banned, along with all its activities.

The ball is in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's court, being the person authorized to ban any organization. But there is real fear that before he makes his ruling, the recommendation itself will be sufficient for various vigilante groups to start attacking and harassing followers of Ahmadiyah.

Many followers of Ahmadiyah have already had to live in makeshift shelters after coming under violent attacks in recent years from vigilante groups who acted on the fatwa (religious edict) of the Indonesian Ulema Council declaring Ahmadiyah heretic. The police, whose duty it is to ensure that every religious minority is protected, did not make much of an effort to prevent the violence. Typically, they only evacuated Ahmadiyah followers to safety and then gave the thugs free reign to destroy and burn down property belonging to the group.

Now, the same vigilante groups and many others like them will be encouraged to resume their attacks. Even the police will be required to act upon a ban and start rounding up the followers of Ahmadiyah. If this is not state-sanctioned religious persecution, then we don't know what is.

No wonder the first reaction from Ahmadiyah leaders when the ban recommendation came Wednesday was to brace themselves for violent attacks and to defend themselves. They knew too that they no longer could count on the protection of the state and the police against future attacks.
What is most disturbing is the way representatives of the conservative Muslims flexed their muscles to secure the ban, at times using violent language, forcing the government to comply.

This is the first time in the republic's history that the state, which proclaims to be neither theocratic nor secular, has interfered in the substance of the religion. In the past, the state restricted its role to ensuring freedom of religion and the right for everyone to practice their faith. It leaves the question of the right or wrong of particular teachings to religious leaders. Wednesday's recommendation broke the long-held taboo and clearly shows the state siding with the Muslim conservatives by agreeing Ahmadiyah is heresy and contravenes the tenets of Islam.

This is setting a dangerous precedent, for no religion is safe now from the possibility of having its beliefs probed and judged to contravene Islam. That literally means just about every existing religion. One wonders, now that the conservative Muslims have had their way, who they will target next. They know the state will again be submissive to their will.

This is the state playing God, a dangerous game that would spell the end of the religious diversity that has always underpinned this republic. We may as well declare Indonesia an Islamic state. At least the rules of the game for the religious minorities are clear. Today, we have a government that is failing in its constitutional duty to protect the religious minorities.

It is encouraging to see that Muslim leaders from the moderate camp quickly distanced themselves from the recommendation by the government panel and denounced it as a violation of the Constitution (which, incidentally, is an impeachable offense).

Former Muhammadiyah chairman Syafii Ma'arif and leading Islamic scholar Azyumardi Azra both said the recommendation reflects the views of "extremist" elements in Islam rather than the "moderate" that continue to preach peace, tolerance and respect for religious differences.

More of them should come out of their shell and speak out about the real Islam.
If the state can no longer be counted on to defend Ahmadiyah followers, then the task should be taken up by moderate and peace-loving Muslims. They, along with leaders of religious minorities, should join hands in fighting religious extremists in our society (and apparently, in our government) and prevent this country from degenerating into a lawless state.

This republic was built upon, among other things, religious diversity and religious freedom. You take those away and you may as well forget about the republic. May God be with us.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Reassessing Indonesia's Foreign Policy

By Bantarto Bandoro ,
Jakarta Post | Wed, 04/02/2008 1:56 AM | Opinion

A meeting of Indonesia's foreign envoys is scheduled to be held here today (Wednesday) to appraise Indonesia's diplomatic performance and adjust foreign policies to match the latest global developments. The meeting takes place amid expectations that the next vice foreign minister will be named during the meeting, suggesting that one of the envoys will fill the post.

The world has seen much change. With the onset of globalization, our foreign ministry is at a critical juncture. It needs to reflect not only on the demand for human resources, but also on policies to ensure Indonesia's capacity to be at the forefront in a changing world. The meeting of our envoys may be designed to expand public awareness of our country's basic needs in the international scene.

The past five years or so have seen our foreign minister empower his ministry by injecting ideas on how to strengthen our international standing by formulating a much stronger and productive bureaucracy.

The reorganization of our foreign ministry paralleled the need for our country exhibit a new image on the international scene. The message is, Indonesia must continuously adapt to the changing strategic international environment while continuing to address its domestic problems.

As the world has become even more interdependent, and Indonesia has become regarded as well on its way to full-fledged democracy, the issues facing the foreign ministry have become even more challenging and multidimensional.

Indonesian foreign policy has to balance its domestic needs and the imperative for the country to continuously remain proactive on the international stage. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's metaphor "navigating the turbulent ocean" was meant to describe those same challenge.

With its relatively new outlook, initiated about six years, and with the appearance of young and able diplomats, the Foreign Ministry has attempted to inform the public about at least four factors facing our foreign policy.

First, it has let the public know where Indonesia stands relative to the current state of international relations. The foreign ministry knows well that the world we live in today is radically different than the one faced by our forefathers and that the country is now in a particular era of history where foreign policy needs to be adjusted in a way that meets the expectations of the public.

There is a growing public awareness that Indonesia needs to convey to the international community its basic needs as a developing nation.

Second, it has kept the public up to date on its foreign policy discourse. Such announcements were once used to indicate Indonesia's position while it faced antagonism between the opposing Eastern Communist and Western Capitalist blocks, which Mohammad Hatta famously likened to "rowing between two reefs".

The point he was making was that Indonesia should avoid choosing sides. The foreign ministry is telling us that Indonesia is choosing such a path in the interest of our nation.

Third, it has let the public know of Indonesia's foreign policy goals. If Yudhoyono's "turbulent ocean" is used as a point of reference, the foreign ministry tries to convince the public of the importance of activism in our foreign policy, meaning that such an "ocean" must be seen as providing ample diplomatic opportunity for Indonesia, rather than risk.

Finally, the foreign ministry has assessed that Indonesia is confronted with three options as a consequence of its extensive international relations: be part of, follow or lead the change.

We surely cannot only be a follower, nor stand idly by, in the this world. It has attempted to lead the country on certain international issues and make itself heard globally, as evidenced, among other examples, by its position on the issue of climate change, Iran's nuclear program and the Middle East conflict.

The past four years have seen many brave moves by our foreign ministry to redefine and redirect the country's international diplomacy by introducing and promoting new sketches of our country's profile, portraying a democratic Indonesia, change, courage, and internationalism. Such a profile has resulted in a greater international recognition of Indonesia's capacity to solve acute international issues.

We, however, should not be too complacent with what we have actually gained from this image, but rather take confidence in our approach to new global problems that could have immediate and long-term impacts on the stability of this country.

With its new profile, and its ambition to lead the way in certain international issues, it is especially important for Indonesia to remain pragmatic but cogent in its foreign policy. But it doesn't end there.

As our foreign policy challenges are set to become even more tremendous in the future, Indonesia needs to make constant adjustments to reflect the realities of tomorrow's challenges, including on domestic, regional and global scenes. What must and remains unchanged is Indonesia's international engagement.

The foreign ministry needs to project a clear-sighted view of the country's national interests if the country is to successfully navigate new regional and global security and economic issues. The greater regional and global complexities of the 21st century demand strategic, outside-of-the-box thinking.

These qualities are needed by the vice foreign minister and he or she must be able to view foreign policy as "intermestic". He or she must also know how to use foreign policy to bridge the gap between national and international areas. All of these prerequisites demand that our next vice foreign minister be a career diplomat, not a politician.

The writer is chief editor of The Indonesian Quarterly published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. He is also a lecturer of the International Relations Post-graduate Studies Program of the Faculty of Social and Political Science at the University of Indonesia and a guest lecturer of the Center for Education and Training at the Department of Foreign Affairs. He can be reached at bandoro*

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Asia's Security Role Goes Global

March 11, 2008 | 1852 GMT

By Rodger Baker -
Over the last few decades, China, Japan and South Korea have dabbled on the international stage mainly via “soft” tools such as cultural and economic exchanges. But as the global trading system has evolved — along with the East Asian trio’s stature within that system — the three countries’ hunger for resources and markets has grown to an all-time high. This has pushed them into increasingly bold experiments on the international stage with “harder” tools such as military and security exchanges.

China is contributing troops to a hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region. Japan has resumed refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S. and coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. And South Korea, which at one point had the third-largest contingent of troops in Iraq, is revisiting its defense relationship with the United States and preparing to take a more active role in East Asia and elsewhere.

U.S. distractions in the Middle East and the collapse of U.S. Cold War security guarantees to Japan and South Korea have played a key role in creating the environment necessary for these experiments to occur. Overall, a fundamental reassessment has been taking place in Northeast Asia over the past decade. Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul are reviewing their strategic positions not only in relation to one another in Asia, but in regard to their global role and vulnerabilities. Once-insular East Asia is debating the merits of breaking from historic patterns and seeking a more assertive global role economically, politically and militarily. To help understand how Asia got to where it is today, some historical background is in order.

The European Age

In the 1500s, Europe underwent a rapid expansion of global exploration and conquest, spreading European influence and involvement far beyond the North Atlantic and Mediterranean to nearly every part of the globe. The European age, stretching from the late 1400s to the late 1900s, was driven by the need for raw materials and resources, markets and power. Power resulted from industrial capacity and wealth, which foreign resources and domestic labor fed.

The imperial age created a competitive cycle, with European powers building bigger fleets and armies to protect their economic interests and scrambling for new territories and resources to feed their war machines. The more territory a country held, the bigger its navy needed to be; the bigger the navy, the more resources the country needed; the more resources it needed, the more territory it needed to hold.

For better or worse, Europe engaged the world aggressively, spreading European influence and power worldwide. It engaged other countries in their respective regions. For example, when Europe engaged Asia, it did so in Asia. Europe colonized the world; the world did not colonize Europe. Before the European age, spreading powers had engaged Europe in Europe via the Mediterranean or the Eurasian heartland, but these occurred before European exploration created the first truly global international system. For the most part, Asian powers stayed in Asia, African powers stayed in Africa, and so on. It was Europe — and its technological revolutions in shipbuilding, navigation and naval warfare — that united the world into an integrated system.

By the mid-1800s, and increasingly after the U.S. Civil War, the United States had joined the Europeans in spreading its own economic, political and military power and influence in the world. The United States spread its wings in the Western Hemisphere, but its aspirations later extended far beyond. With one flank on the Pacific, the United States was perfectly positioned to take a more active role in Asia, which was increasing in importance due its trade and resources. While the United Kingdom had “opened” China to the outside world, it was the United States that had opened Japan and Korea.

Cold War to Asia as Trade Cornerstone

World Wars I and II left Europe in shambles and its global empires crumbling. As the European age faded, the United States and the Soviet Union embarked on a global Cold War, spreading their respective influence and power in a strategic worldwide chess game. Soviet and U.S. interests squared off in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. What had once been the playground of Europe was now the proxy battleground of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. While Europe still dabbled in internationalism, its focus mostly shifted inward.
Like the imperial age it replaced, the Cold War brought a certain sense of order to the world despite the high-stakes rivalry. The collapse of the Soviet Union left a power vacuum, with the United States as sole global hegemon. The U.S. Navy was far and away the most powerful in the world, giving the United States the ability to assert its interests quickly, nearly anywhere in the world. After Sputnik, the United States worked to establish a strong lead in space, which evolved into a cornerstone of U.S. technological dominance and war-fighting capability. Global trade patterns had shifted, too. Trans-Pacific trade equaled trans-Atlantic trade by 1980, and surpassed it in the next decade.

While post-Cold War America remains the dominant global power by dint of sheer size and industrial and economic heft, global trade is focused on Asia. The Asian export powers — China, Japan and South Korea — all sit among the top 12 economies in the world. But their dependence on resources from abroad, particularly energy, and on overseas export markets have stretched their economic interests far beyond the reach of their military capabilities. During the Cold War, this did not matter nearly so much. Japan and South Korea fell under the U.S. security umbrella, while China was not really a part of the global economic system. It matters now, however.

China is now a major global economic player. And U.S. interests now more frequently collide with Japanese and/or South Korean interests. For example, Japan’s energy deals in Iran greatly displeased Washington, and South Korea has different views on relations with North Korea than the United States does. The vulnerabilities of the three Asian countries’ respective economic positions are increasingly obvious. But as Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul consider expanding their political and security reach to ensure their economic interests, they have little experience to build on outside of Asia.


China, the “Middle Kingdom,” was long the dominant power in Asia. In times past, it demanded tribute from surrounding nations and maintained land-based trade routes southward into Southeast Asia, northward into the Mongolian and Russian steppes, and westward into Central Asia — and even as far as South Asia and Europe. But China had little experience with maritime power projection.

The treasure fleets of Chinese explorer Zheng He, which reached along Middle East and African coasts and might have spread to the shores of South America, were more of a frivolity than a necessity for China’s economic security. So when trouble developed at home in China, the government scuttled the massive fleet. The Chinese disregard for maritime power was dramatically highlighted once again when the naval budget was redirected to the construction of Beijing’s Summer Palace, including a massive hand-dug artificial lake.

Until the modern era, China could get its vital resources — including its energy needs — domestically or via land routes. But that has changed. China now reaches far abroad not only for oil, but for minerals and other raw materials to feed its export-driven economy and internal growth and urbanization. It is also seeing a training ground in the developing markets for its budding global commercial players.

This has caused a major shift in Chinese strategic thinking, and the once-reticent giant — which for the vast majority of its history held an insular view of its role in the world — has of late taken a more proactive role internationally. This has included everything from a stronger role in international organizations such as the United Nations, to sending peacekeepers abroad, to working with the government of Sudan to break a deadlock over the deployment of foreign forces to Darfur.

Certainly, China’s steps are hesitant. And Beijing is working to stress to the nations it is dealing with and the United States that its interests are not imperialistic, but simply friendly and mutually beneficial. But despite its efforts to sugarcoat its global ambitions, China is starting to see some resistance to its encroachments in Africa — Beijing has been accused of coming to Africa just to despoil its mineral resources, as the Europeans have done before. Despite the resistance, the need for secure supply lines and market access will continue to drive China away from its long-held insular focus and into more proactive international involvement.


Japan has the greatest experience in recent history in imitating the imperialist system of Europe. From the time Commodore Matthew Perry’s black ships steamed in and opened Japan to the world, Tokyo began seeking not only to play on European terms, but to rewrite the rules of the game in its own favor. But even Japan’s imperialist moves were limited to the Asia-Pacific theater. Moreover, Tokyo quickly found itself caught in the same cycle Europe had faced — it needed more resources and territory to supply the industrialization and military construction necessary to ensure resource security. Ultimately, Japan ran up against U.S. interests in the Pacific, and lost.

Following World War II, Tokyo exploited the U.S. position in the Cold War to gain security guarantees while building up its own economic might. But Japan’s economic rise eventually began raising concerns in the United States.

With the end of the Cold War, Japan’s interests were no longer necessarily synonymous with U.S. interests. Since Tokyo could no longer count on Washington to ensure Japanese national interests, Tokyo began rethinking its military capabilities and reach. Japan has the world’s second-most powerful navy, and aside from domestic constitutional restrictions on the use of its military abroad, it has the technological prowess to further expand its military capabilities. But historic animosities with its neighbors — and in many cases, former colonial subjects — as well as a domestic satisfaction with the Cold War status quo that required little military or political action abroad, have left Tokyo walking a cautious line in restructuring its regional and international role.

The United States in some ways is encouraging the reassertion of Japanese power, treating Japan as a partner in regional security, and encouraging the strengthening of Japanese defense capabilities. This cooperation with the United States helps mask Tokyo’s own national interests and keeps the expanding role couched in terms of international cooperation. But Tokyo is also learning from the cooperation. Refueling U.S. vessels in the Indian Ocean provides real-world training for sustaining a force abroad — potentially even a naval force in the Indian Ocean as part of Tokyo’s energy supply lines — and Japanese defense procurement plans show a clear path toward power-projection capabilities.

South Korea

South Korea, by far the smallest of the trio of Northeast Asian powers — but not necessarily the least technologically advanced — also is rethinking its own defense posture in relation to its international economic vulnerabilities. Korea has flirted with big regional power status in the past — the Koguryo kingdom reached far into Manchuria — but for the most part, it has been overshadowed by its neighbors, in part since it has the weakest geographic position of the three. South Korean foreign policy thus has been to appear as inconspicuous as possible and to portray itself as not worth attacking.

Successive Korean kingdoms would pay homage to China to maintain Korean independence, but would be most unwelcoming to visitors trying to open the so-called “hermit kingdom” in the peninsula. Certainly, there was maritime and land-based trade throughout the region, but the Koreans made sure to keep that trade largely away from their peninsula. When the regional system grew too difficult for Korea to handle on its own, it would turn to one of the larger regional powers to keep the others at bay.

This strategy ultimately failed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Korea became a Japanese colony. The practice of turning to larger powers was resumed after World War II, with the North seeking Soviet and Chinese assistance and the South turning to the United States.

Since the Korean War, South Korea largely has depended upon the United States for its security abroad, and to a large extent for domestic security. Only in the past decade has there been a significant shift in Korean defense policy and capability, with South Korean forces taking a larger role in defense of the peninsula. First and foremost, its defensive posture has been aimed at North Korea. More recently, it has focused on threats further abroad, particularly Japan, with which South Korea has competing claims on islands in the

East Sea/Sea of Japan.

Like Japan, South Korea can no longer fully rely on the United States to ensure its strategic interests. After all, both Japan and South Korea in many ways are economic competitors to the United States. Without the common threat of the Soviet Union, Washington has little interest in sacrificing U.S. economic interests to keep these East Asian allies happy. Seoul is now debating a more active and assertive role internationally, building on the so-called Korean Wave, which has seen the spread of Korean TV dramas, movies and pop music abroad and the election of a Korean as U.N. secretary-general.

This is not to say that South Korea and Japan are both fleeing the U.S. embrace altogether, only that the two East Asian nations also are addressing their own independent strategic needs as well. Thus, South Korea contributed the third-largest contingent of military forces to Iraq, not necessarily just to appease the United States, but rather to expand its own interaction and influence in Iraq and the Middle East. Korean forces were stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Korean energy companies followed the troops in a bid for access to the region’s petroleum. South Korea is considering establishing its own Peace Corps-type concept, sending Koreans abroad to spread influence and increase the political clout of the nation. It also plans to expand its overseas development assistance — a tool Japan once used to spread its influence and ensure its interests in Southeast Asia.

A Shared Conundrum

Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul at present all face a similar problem: Their economic interests — both in resources and markets — are spread further and further around the globe, but each lacks the military ability, established policy or experience to ensure their interests far from their shores. While soft power formerly was all they could bring to bear, this is slowly changing. The initiative is now present for more active political and security roles to match their economic involvement around the world.

While the United States will remain the dominant power globally, East Asia is waking up to the prospect of an active global role. This marks a further evolution in the global system, which has gone from European global activity to American interaction, and has seen Soviet and now Asian involvement. This represents untried territory for the Asian nations, which will face new challenges in logistics, in foreign policy and in the widespread strength of the United States.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Indonesia's Arms Appetite

Jakarta wants weapons. Lots of them.

Frida Berrigan | February 27, 2008
Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus

Right after Valentine’s Day, Indonesian Air Force officials met with their U.S. counterparts to discuss “bilateral defense cooperation.” On their wish list were Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighters and C-130 Hercules tactical transport planes. There
will be more defense talks in April between the two countries as they step up military cooperation.

The United States and Indonesia “normalized” military relations in 2005, ending a 10-year period during which Jakarta was essentially barred from receiving most forms of U.S. weapons sales and military aid and training because of its military’s human rights abuses and corruption. Jakarta is happy to be back in Washington’s good graces. U.S. Defense Secretary dropped by for a visit on Monday, February 25th and praised Indonesia as a “huge Islamic country, democratic, secular,” before continuing to say: “I think strengthening our relationship with Indonesia is very important, not just in a regional context, but I think in terms of the role that Indonesia may be able to play more broadly.” But its military is carefully courting other weapons suppliers so it is not again dependent on a single source.

Looking to Moscow

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Jakarta in September 2007, weapons were at the top of the agenda. Moscow extended $1 billion in loans for weapons and in December, Indonesia picked up medium and short-range missiles, aerial bombs, and other systems. In 2003, Indonesia bought Russian fighter planes and other hardware as part of a $192 million package of weapons, and Moscow let their new friend pay most of its tab with palm oil. Jakarta’s military is now hoping for more – including 20 fighter planes, six submarines, air defense systems, helicopters, boats, and other systems that could add up to about $3 billion.

Washington is watching this new friendship with a wary eye. Throughout the Cold War, the United States counted on Indonesia as a staunch anti-communist and friend. General Suharto ruled the archipelago with an iron fist and an avaricious eye for more than 30 years.

Jakarta’s rearmament push comes as Indonesia wrestles with Suharto’s bloody legacy following his death in January at the age of 86. The former leader was given the burial of a statesman, and his legacy was burnished to a high gloss. “Though there may be some controversy over his legacy,” eulogized U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume, “President Suharto was a historic figure who left a lasting impression on Indonesia and the region of Southeast Asia.” The “controversy” includes Transparency International’s 2004 assertion that Suharto was the “world’s greatest kleptocrat ever” with a fortune of $35 billion or more stolen from the Indonesian people. Other controversial issues include mass killings. His extermination of between 400,000 and one million suspected communists as he moved to seize power in 1965 and 1966 stands out in its brutality. There was also the 1975 invasion of East Timor, the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991, and much more. Suharto was labeled “one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century,” by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.

Throughout the Suharto regime and since, Jakarta enjoyed the full support of the United States. Most of Indonesia’s weapons came from the United States, their officers graduated from U.S. academies, and the two militaries conducted joint exercises. Jakarta was almost completely dependent on Washington for its military strength. Additionally, Jakarta’s generals developed a strong preference for U.S. weapons. Thus, the congressionally mandated checks on weapons sales and military aid effectively hamstrung the Indonesian military and sent it a strong message that it must reform. But pressure from military officials from both countries and the political exigencies of the war on terrorism successfully weakened and eventually undermined Washington’s willingness to use its influence to demand that the Indonesian military respect human rights and eliminate corruption.
Strengthened Ties

Normalization of military ties between the United States and Indonesia in late 2005 was accompanied by State Department assurances that “the United States remains committed to pressing for accountability for past human rights abuses and U.S. assistance will continue to be guided by Indonesia’s progress on democratic reform and accountability.”

The guides seem to have lost their map. This year, over the objections of the State Department, Congress withheld $2.7 million – a fraction of U.S. foreign military financing – until the State Department could demonstrate that Indonesia was taking steps to hold members of the military accountable for human rights violations and implement "reforms to increase the transparency and accountability of their operations and financial management." John M. Miller, national coordinator of ETAN, reacted to this attempt to influence Jakarta by saying “withholding this small portion of military aid is an inadequate stick, but it serves to keep up appearances. The Indonesian government looks like it is trying, but the Indonesian military correctly interprets it as a token gesture. The military gets what it wants without concretely change how they do business or losing its impunity.”

Meanwhile, Washington nearly tripled Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Indonesia. In 2006, FMF totaled $990,000 but jumped to $6.5 million in 2007. The request for 2008 is $15.7 million. ETAN reacted in a statement at the time: “we see no dramatic change in the Indonesian military’s conduct over the past year to warrant such a generous increase.”

But this is just the beginning of what the United States is providing to Indonesia. Under a little noticed Pentagon program known as “train and equip authority” or “Section 1206,” Washington gave another Indonesia another $18.4 million in 2006 to procure coastal radar stations, and improved air and sea surveillance capabilities. In 2007, “1206” funding totaled $28.7 million and was used to beef up radar and communications equipment for the Indonesian navy and coast guard. For 2008, details have not been released, but funding is expected to be comparable.

The Global Train and Equip program is designed to help armed forces address regional terrorism problems, while bypassing the normal State Department channels for aid. In 2006, the Pentagon doled out a total of $200 million to foreign militaries through this program. Now the Defense Department is seeking to increase “1206” authority to $750 million and make the program permanent.

Military aid is not the only thing pouring in. In 2005, the State Department authorized Jakarta for $51 million in licenses for weaponry, defense articles, and services. The next year, the State Department issued licenses for more than $100 million in military hardware including spare parts for fighters, cargo planes and helicopters, explosives and torpedo launchers were issued. Not all licenses are exercised, but the list gives a sense of Indonesia’s voracious appetite for weapons.
Why So Many Weapons?

Washington hopes that by bulking up Indonesia’s military capacities it can help the nation counter terrorism and emerge as a regional leader able to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and deter China’s aggressive military build-up. That’s what Secretary Gates means when he talks about the “role that Indonesia may be able to play more broadly” and that’s why Washington is so threatened by the way Russian President Putin has reached out to Jakarta.

So, Washington dangles F-16s to make its sweeping vision of Indonesia’s strategic importance a reality. But, in the past, U.S.-origin weapons, military know-how and aid, were not used to achieve lofty political aims. They were turned on Indonesian citizens active in the multiple movements for self-determination and autonomy in far-flung regions like Aceh, Papua, and Timor. They were used to put down political demonstrations and quell unrest after economic collapse destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.

The checks on U.S. military aid are gone, and now the floodgates have opened. Political and military officials need to watch what Jakarta does next very carefully. Human rights, broad political participation, secular democracy, and regional leadership do not spring fully formed from the belly of an F-16 or the barrel of a gun.

FPIF columnist Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at the Arms and Security Project of the New America Foundation.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kosovo Independence and the Russian Reaction

February 20, 2008

By George Friedman -

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday. The United States and many, but not all, European countries recognized it. The Serbian government did not impose an economic blockade on — or take any military action against — Kosovo, although it declared the Albanian leadership of Kosovo traitors to Serbia. The Russians vehemently repeated their objection to an independent Kosovo but did not take any overt action. An informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was announced last week; it will take place in Moscow on Feb. 21. With Kosovo’s declaration, a river was crossed. We will now see whether that river was the Rubicon.

Kosovo’s independence declaration is an important event for two main reasons. First, it potentially creates a precedent that could lead to redrawn borders in Europe and around the world. Second, it puts the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany in the position of challenging what Russia has defined as a fundamental national interest — and this at a time when the Russians have been seeking to assert their power and authority. Taken together, each of these makes this a geopolitically significant event.

Begin with the precedent. Kosovo historically has been part of Serbia; indeed, Serbs consider it the cradle of their country. Over the course of the 20th century, it has become predominantly Albanian and Muslim (though the Albanian version of Islam is about as secular as one can get). The Serbian Orthodox Christian community has become a minority. During the 1990s, Serbia — then the heart of the now-defunct Yugoslavia — carried out a program of repression against the Albanians. Whether the repression rose to the level of genocide has been debated. In any case, the United States and other members of NATO conducted an air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 until the Yugoslavians capitulated, allowing the entry of NATO troops into the province of Kosovo. Since then, Kosovo, for all practical purposes, has been a protectorate of a consortium of NATO countries but has formally remained a province of Serbia. After the Kosovo war, wartime Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic died in The Hague in the course of his trial for war crimes; a new leadership took over; and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia itself ultimately dissolved, giving way to a new Republic of Serbia.

The United Nations did not sanction the war in Kosovo. Russian opposition in the U.N. Security Council prevented any U.N. diplomatic cover for the Western military action. Following the war — in a similar process to what happened with regard to Iraq — the Security Council authorized the administration of Kosovo by the occupying powers, but it never clearly authorized independence for Kosovo. The powers administering Kosovo included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and other European states, organized as the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

While the logic of the situation pointed toward an independent Kosovo, the mechanism envisioned for the province’s independence was a negotiated agreement with Serbia. The general view was that the new government and personalities in Belgrade would be far more interested in the benefits of EU membership than they would be in retaining control of Kosovo. Over nearly a decade, the expectation therefore was that the Serbian government would accede to an independent Kosovo in exchange for being put on a course for EU membership. As frequently happens — and amazes people for reasons we have never understood — nationalism trumped economic interests. The majority of Serbs never accepted secession. The United States and the Europeans, therefore, decided to create an independent Kosovo without Serbian acquiescence. The military and ethnic reality thus was converted into a political reality.

Those recognizing Kosovo’s independence have gone out of their way specifically to argue that this decision in no way constitutes a precedent. They argue that the Serbian oppression of the late 1990s, which necessitated intervention by outside military forces to protect the Kosovars, made returning Kosovo to Serbian rule impossible. The argument therefore goes that Kosovo’s independence must be viewed as an idiosyncratic event related to the behavior of the Serbs, not as a model for the future.

Other European countries, including Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, have expressly rejected this reasoning. So have Russia and China. Each of these countries has a specific, well-defined area dominated by a specific ethnic minority group. In these countries and others like them, these ethnic groups have demanded, are demanding or potentially will demand autonomy, secession or integration with a neighboring country. Such ethnic groups could claim, and have claimed, oppression by the majority group. And each country facing this scenario fears that if Kosovo can be taken from Serbia, a precedent for secession will be created.

The Spanish have Basque separatists. Romania and Slovakia each contain large numbers of Hungarians concentrated in certain areas. The Cypriots — backed by the Greeks — are worried that the Turkish region of Cyprus, which already is under a separate government, might proclaim formal independence. The Chinese are concerned about potential separatist movements in Muslim Xinjiang and, above all, fear potential Taiwanese independence. And the Russians are concerned about independence movements in Chechnya and elsewhere. All of these countries see the Kosovo decision as setting a precedent, and they therefore oppose it.

Europe is a case in point. Prior to World War II, Europe’s borders constantly remained in violent flux. One of the principles of a stable Europe has been the inviolability of borders from outside interference, as well as the principle that borders cannot be redefined except with mutual agreement. This principle repeatedly was reinforced by international consensus, most notably at Yalta in 1945 and Helsinki in 1973.

Thus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could agree to separate, and the Soviet Union could dissolve itself into its component republics, but the Germans cannot demand the return of Silesia from Poland; outsiders cannot demand a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland; and the Russians cannot be forced to give up Chechnya. The principle that outside powers can’t redefine boundaries, and that secessionist movements can’t create new nations unilaterally, has been a pillar of European stability.

The critics of Kosovo’s independence believe that larger powers can’t redraw the boundaries of smaller ones without recourse to the United Nations. They view the claim that Yugoslavia’s crimes in Kosovo justify doing so as unreasonable; Yugoslavia has dissolved, and the Serbian state is run by different people. The Russians view the major European powers and the Americans as arrogating rights that international law does not grant them, and they see the West as setting itself up as judge and jury without right of appeal.

This debate is not trivial. But there is a more immediate geopolitical issue that we have discussed before: the Russian response. The Russians have turned Kosovo into a significant issue. Moscow has objected to Kosovo’s independence on all of the diplomatic and legal grounds discussed. But behind that is a significant challenge to Russia’s strategic position. Russia wants to be seen as a great power and the dominant power in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Serbia is a Russian ally. Russia is trying to convince countries in the FSU, such as Ukraine, that looking to the West for help is futile because Russian power can block Western power. It wants to make the Russian return to great power status seem irresistible.

The decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the face of Russian opposition undermines Russian credibility. That is doubly the case because Russia can make a credible argument that the Western decision flies in the face of international law — and certainly of the conventions that have governed Europe for decades. Moscow also is asking for something that would not be difficult for the Americans and Europeans to give. The resources being devoted to Kosovo are not going to decline dramatically because of independence. Putting off independence until the last possible moment — which is to say forever, considering the utter inability of Kosovo to care for itself — thus certainly would have been something the West could have done with little effort.

But it didn’t. The reason for this is unclear. It does not appear that anyone was intent on challenging the Russians. The Kosovo situation was embedded in a process in which the endgame was going to be independence, and all of the military force and the bureaucratic inertia of the European Union was committed to this process. Russian displeasure was noted, but in the end, it was not taken seriously. This was simply because no one believed the Russians could or would do anything about Kosovar independence beyond issuing impotent protestations. Simply put, the nations that decided to recognize Kosovo were aware of Russian objections but viewed Moscow as they did in 1999: a weak power whose wishes are heard but discarded as irrelevant. Serbia was an ally of Russia. Russia intervened diplomatically on its behalf. Russia was ignored.

If Russia simply walks away from this, its growing reputation as a great power will be badly hurt in the one arena that matters to Moscow the most: the FSU. A Europe that dismisses Russian power is one that has little compunction about working with the Americans to whittle away at Russian power in Russia’s own backyard. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko — who, in many ways, is more anti-Western than Russian President Vladimir Putin and is highly critical of Putin as well — has said it is too late to “sing songs” about Kosovo. He maintains that the time to stop the partition of Kosovo was in 1999, in effect arguing that Putin’s attempts to stop it were ineffective because it was a lost cause. Translation: Putin and Russia are not the powers they pretend to be.

That is not something that Putin in particular can easily tolerate. Russian grand strategy calls for Russia to base its economy on the export of primary commodities. To succeed at this, Russia must align its production and exports with those of other FSU countries. For reasons of both national security and economics, being the regional hegemon in the FSU is crucial to Russia’s strategy and to Putin’s personal credibility. He is giving up the presidency on the assumption that his personal power will remain intact. That assumption is based on his effectiveness and decisiveness. The way he deals with the West — and the way the West deals with him — is a measure of his personal power. Being completely disregarded by the West will cost him. He needs to react.

The Russians are therefore hosting an “informal” CIS summit in Moscow on Friday. This is not the first such summit, by any means, and one was supposed to be held before this but was postponed. On Feb. 11, however, after it became clear that Kosovo would declare independence, the decision to hold the summit was announced. If Putin has a response to the West on Kosovo, it should reveal itself at the summit.

There are three basic strategies the Russians can pursue. One is to try to create a coalition of CIS countries to aid Serbia. This is complex in that Serbia may have no appetite for this move, and the other CIS countries may not even symbolically want to play.

The second option is opening the wider issue of altering borders. This could be aimed at sticking it to the Europeans by backing Serbian secessionist efforts in bifurcated Bosnia-Herzegovina. It also could involve announcing Russia’s plans to annex Russian-friendly separatist regions on its borders — most notably the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and perhaps even eastern Ukraine and the Crimea. (Annexation would be preferred over recognizing independence, since it would reduce the chances of Russia’s own separatist regions agitating for secession.) Russia thus would argue that Kosovo’s independence opens the door for Russia to shift its borders, too. That would make the summit exciting, particularly with regard to the Georgians, who are allied with the United States and at odds with Russia on Abkhazia and other issues.

The third option involves creating problems for the West elsewhere. An Iranian delegation will be attending the summit as “observers.” That creates the option for Russia to signal to Washington that the price it will pay for Kosovo will be extracted elsewhere. Apart from increased Russian support for Iran — which would complicate matters in Iraq for Washington — there are issues concerning Azerbaijan, which is sandwiched between Russia and Iran. In the course of discussions with Iranians, the Russians could create problems for Azerbaijan. The Russians also could increase pressure on the Baltic states, which recognized Kosovo and whose NATO membership is a challenge to the Russians. During the Cold War, the Russians were masters of linkage. They responded not where they were weak but where the West was weak. There are many venues for that.

What is the hardest to believe — but is, of course, possible — is that Putin simply will allow the Kosovo issue to pass. He clearly knew this was coming. He maintained vocal opposition to it beforehand and reiterated his opposition afterward. The more he talks and the less he does, the weaker he appears to be. He personally can’t afford that, and neither can Russia. He had opportunities to cut his losses before Kosovo’s independence was declared. He didn’t. That means either he has blundered badly or he has something on his mind. Our experience with Putin is that the latter is more likely, and this suddenly called summit may be where we see his plans play out.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Indonesia - China to Resume Defense Ties

By The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia and China have agreed to work together on military training and military vehicle production, a move in line with the two countries' 2007 agreement on defense cooperation.
After welcoming Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan on Wednesday, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told reporters both countries would conduct joint military training and exercises for their defense forces.
"We will also create a strategic partnership in joint financing and defense industry, which will concentrate on producing military vehicles, aircraft and vessel carriers," said Juwono, who visited Beijing last November to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral defense cooperations.
He said the finance and national development ministers of both countries would discuss the amount of investment needed for the defense industry, in which local military carrier producers PT Dirgantara Indonesia and shipbuilder PT PAL would be involved.
Juwono has repeatedly said his ministry will focus more on procuring new military equipment from local manufacturers while seeking products not available domestically from foreign partners under mutual agreements.
He said both countries would also establish a committee to strengthen the defense ties between them.
The bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and China entered a new phase under the reign of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1990.
In 1967, Indonesia's diplomatic relations with China were suspended in the aftermath of a failed coup d'etat in 1965 to oust the then president Sukarno. The then-army major general Soeharto, who undertook to control the aftermath and later rose to power replacing Sukarno, blamed the upheaval on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), which had flourished well during Sukarno's reign.
Soeharto's government accused communism-based China of being engaged with PKI in the turmoil which was believed to have caused the death of more than a million civilians.
Twenty three years later, the two countries resumed their formal diplomatic ties after an exchange of visits by Chinese premier Li Peng to Jakarta in August 1990 and by Soeharto to Beijing in November the same year.
President Yudhoyono visited his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao, in Beijing in 2005 to sign a strategic partnership, which included the agreement to strengthen the defense cooperation between both countries.
Indonesia was the first country in Southeast Asia to enter into such a strategic partnership with China.
Minister Cao said Wednesday the military in both countries had played a significant role in assisting the economic advancement and a cooperation agreement would allow them to share their experiences in that field.
"In the future, we hope to conduct high level visits more frequently to strengthen the defense relationship between both countries," he said during his first visit to Indonesia.
Minister Cao is scheduled to leave the country on Sunday after a five-day visit. (lln)

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