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Middle Powers During Conventional Times in Global Geopolitics

By Denis Bright

The big picture of global geopolitics is often obscured by saturation media coverage of grand events like the G7 Summit in Cornwall (11-13 June 2021) or the G20 Summit in Rome (30-31 October 2021).

Leaks from the leadership teams can heighten interest in the forthcoming discussions.

Forums without pre-summit links can be boring affairs. Britain’s chairmanship of the G7 Summit in Cornwall seemed to fit into that category. Channel 2’s news coverage from Paris described the G20 Summit on 31 October 2021 as a largely unproductive talkfest.

The emphasis at the Cornwall Summit was on the morally responsible links between developed nations. Participating countries and observer states were called to unite around more transparent parliamentary democracy, the new norm of sustainable neoliberal economies within the ongoing imperative of global strategic management through the US Global Alliance.

 

Image from foreignbrief.com

 

Australia is a peripheral player on the conference circuit as an invited guest to the G7 Summit with leaders from India, South Korea and South Africa.

Our participation at the G20 Summit in Rome will always be remembered by the dressing down given by President Macron to Scott Morrison as covered by ABC News, (1 November 2021).

The assembled global media will always challenge Scott Morrison’s emphasis on rhetoric to win the next Australian elections. Like many Australians, such events are of nuisance value while political elites largely ignore real concerns across the local electorates.

Image from Business Standard

Domestic politics of developed middle powers is currently going through a very conservative phase. Centre-right governments dominate representative democracies in the developed countries as neoconservatives have become adept at appealing to working class voters to achieve absolute majorities or to fracture the support base of progressive parties through diversionary rhetoric from minor far-right parties.

Amid the boredom of frivolous media opportunities at global forums, anticipations of future tensions might surface. To the delight of Carrie Johnson, the Macrons respond defensively to some banter from Boris Johnson.

Here is my Call of the Board of the political changes associated with recent and forthcoming elections in those middle powers. Recent elections across the middle powers have largely been a confirmation of the status quo. What messages are left in the tea leaves from the recent round of elections across the middle powers?

Canada Stands Firm on National Sovereignty within the US Global Alliance

Justin Trudeau was re-elected in Canada on 20 September 2021 with a second minority government for the Liberal Party. The government will be supported by minority parties. The solid vote for Bloc Quebecois (BQ) adds some diversity to Canadian politics. It is a substantial grouping cannot be ignored by a French Canadian leader.

Tolerance of political diversity enables the Trudeau Government to maintain a strong commitment to national sovereignty. Canada was strongly pressured by the Trump administration to replace the NAFTA trading Agreement with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USMCA became operational on 1 July 2020 after Canada negotiated amendments to the original agreement to strengthen the place of trade unions and challenge corporate prerogatives.

The Trudeau Government is no stranger to a commitment to national sovereignty in trading and investment disputes with the USA particularly during the Trump Era. The Conversation (1 February 2021) has a good article on these pragmatic disputes which extend to border disputes with Alaska that affect salmon fishing zones.

Cultural diversity has saved Canadians from the limitations of a one party neoconservative state. This was a key feature of those dour years under the leadership of Stephen Harper for almost a decade (2006-15).

Germany Takes the Plunge with Olaf Scholz

Former east-side Chancellor Angela Merkel also brought political diversity to German politics. The synopsis of her life and times was eloquently captured by Channel 5 in Paris for screening on Four Corners on 18 October 2021.

Olaf Scholz is now the Chancellor in coalition with the Greens and the neoliberal FPD Party.

Scholz served as Angela Merkel’s deputy in the previous Grand Coalition. He was also finance minister. The presence of the FPD and Greens in the Scholz Coalition should inevitably facilitate these policy changes with the SPD acting as a moderating rather than a radical influence.

Even during Angela Merkel’s long tenure as Chancellor since 2005, Germany’s pragmatic commercial ties with Russia and China were a concern to British Conservatives. Germany’s economic capacity and commitment to national sovereignty might have contributed to the BREXIT agenda favoured by Boris Johnson. Angela Merkel’s phone networks were bugged to keep the more conventional members of NATO better informed on developments according to Reuter news sources (The Guardian 9 July 2015).

In another independent phase during the Merkel years, the German Government had signed the articles of accord with the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in mid-2015 with the largest equity holdings of any West European Country of $US4.5 billion about the same time as Australia’s LNP signed up with $US 3.7 billion in opposition to cautionary advice from the Obama Administration.

Like Canada, Germany seems to lack the political dogmatism which is a feature of Australian conservatism. Few other countries have such a focus on winning the next election by repetitive news management strategies which is one of the hallmarks of the federal LNP with those nightly news briefing from the prime minister on the moral values of global capitalism and the need for more strategic preparedness.

Scholz served as Angela Merkel’s deputy in the previous Grand Coalition. He was also finance minister. The presence of the FPD and Greens in the Scholz Coalition should inevitably facilitate these policy changes with the SPD acting as a moderating rather than a radical influence.

Even during Angela Merkel’s long tenure as Chancellor since 2005, Germany’s pragmatic commercial ties with Russia and China were a concern to British Conservatives. Germany’s economic capacity and commitment to national sovereignty might have contributed to the BREXIT agenda favoured by Boris Johnson. Angela Merkel’s phone networks were bugged to keep the more conventional members of NATO better informed on developments according to Reuter news sources (The Guardian, 9 July 2015).

In another independent phase during the Merkel years, the German Government had signed the articles of accord with the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in mid-2015 with the largest equity holdings of any West European Country of $US4.5 billion about the same time as Australia’s LNP signed up with $US 3.7 billion in opposition to cautionary advice from the Obama Administration.

Like Canada, Germany seems to lack the political dogmatism which is a feature of Australian conservatism. Few other countries have such a focus on winning the next election by repetitive news management strategies which is one of the hallmarks of the federal LNP with those nightly news briefing from the prime minister on the moral values of global capitalism and the need for more strategic preparedness.

Japan’s National Elections – 31 October 2021

Newly appointed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida retained an absolute majority for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in coalition with the Komeito Party.

The new government of Fumio Kishida will be challenged by IMF forecasts for the Japanese economy during the current trading and investment disputes between the US and rival powers Russia and Japan.

There is a potential problem for more strategic controls over Japanese trade and investment after the Japanese elections in the wider interests of the US global alliance. China is Japan’s leading trading partner and does not seem to have problems with this partnership in both trade and investment.

Although Japan is a net creditor in capital investment flows to the world, the financial burdens of COVID-19 management in Japan have more than halved capital outflows between 2019 and 2020 (UN Center for Trade and Development-UNCTAD).

As a high cost manufacturing nation, Japan simply does not attract large capital investment inflows. There are real challenges to Japanese capital investment in the USA in an era of America First Strategies which commenced during the Trump era.

Expect Japan to deviate somewhat from its current strategic alliance with the US if difficult times return in the mid-2020s and beyond.

There are real opportunities for peaceful trade and investment with both China and Russia. The Annual Eastern Forum in the Russian Far Eastern Port City of Vladivostok offers opportunities to discuss such issues.

The complete list of participants in 2021 included Kevin Rudd who most likely participated online.

Russia has proposed a land-bridge to Japan through the island of Sakhalin. This island was part of the Japanese Empire before 1945 along with the adjacent Kurile Islands.

A road and rail link from Hokkaido to Sakhalin requires an additional 45 kilometres long of undersea tunnel or a continuation of the vehicular and passenger ferry services across the La Perouse Strait.

 

 

Construction of the six kilometre long bridge from Russia across to Sakhalin is entirely a domestic construction option for Russia (Global Construction Review 9 December 2019).

The close proximity of the Korean Peninsula to Southern Japan provides more justification for Belt and Road Initiatives (BRIs) to link Japanese ports to both China and Russia.

All of the middle powers in the US Global Alliance like Germany, Japan and Australia oscillate between phases of absolute loyalty to the US Global Alliance and qualified commitment to national sovereignty.

Reuters news agency (1 November 2021) expects Prime Minister Kishida to cling closer to the US Global Alliance while still promising to honour populist commitments to address wealth inequality. Public opinion in Japan favours Fumio Kishida’s leadership rival Taro Kano. Leadership rivalries might re-emerge if trading and investment opportunities deteriorate in the mid-2020s.

Strong prevailing loyalty of the middle powers to the supporters of the US Global Alliance is evident in arms sales to allied countries. Germany is now amongst the world’s top five arms exporters to countries involved in the conflicts in Yemen and Libya as noted by DW News (3 January 2021). Germany also exports submarines to Israel which are fitted with nuclear weapons in Israel according to comments from NTI (18 February 2021).

Increasing strategic ties between the US Global Alliance and India has seen a boom in arms exports of aircraft, air defence systems, anti-submarine warfare weapons, armoured vehicles, artillery, engines, missiles, sensors, satellites and naval ships. Sales amount to $US151 million in 2020 as noted by Trading Economics.

Germany, Japan and Australia have since become more cautious about financial arrangements with China. Germany finally agreed to fall into line with US requests for more restraint on technological transfers to China with some provisions in IT Security Law 2.0 in early 2021 (European Council on Foreign Relations 5 February 2021). As a response to international sanctions, Russia has increased the price of its gas exports to EU countries and Japan. France is diversifying its sources of natural gas with new supplies from Norway and North Africa due to frosty relations with Britain over the loss of submarine contracts and fishing disputes in the English Channel and the North Sea.

EU Politics in the G20 Era 30-31 October 2021

France goes to the polls on 10 April 2022 in the first round of the Presidential elections. Recent polls carry no joy for the French Left. Its polling has hit a new low and remains highly fractured. The shadow of far-right contender Éric Zemmour adds some complexity for French voters. For the second time running, the final runoff is likely to be between Emmanuel Macron and one of the far-right French political parties.

Italian politics is even more fractured than in France. The Five Star movement changed its allegiance in favour of the Democratic Party (PD). To contain its own defence spending, Italy is one of the five middle powers in the EU which hosts US nuclear weapons at the Aviano (Near Venice) and Ghedi Air Bases (Near Brescia). According to ICAN Australia, Italy has failed to sign or to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Anecdotes from the Federation of American Scientists show that Italy tops the EU list of nuclear weapon vaults and nuclear missiles:

 

 

In the meantime, the loyal middle powers are largely in cinque with a common commitment to neoliberalism and more strategic defence spending. The Guardian’s own investigative team (19 July 2021) has reported on the intensity of surveillance of political activists from both governments and corporations:

Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak.

The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.

Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.

The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.

Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit media organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the leaked list and shared access with media partners as part of the Pegasus project, a reporting consortium.

The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. However, the consortium believes the data is indicative of the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance attempts.

The attendance of Scott Morrison at both the G20 and COP26 event rules out an election before March or May 2022.

Current opinion polling particularly from YouGov (Newspoll) is favourable to Labor with substantial swings against the federal LNP in all states and territories (The Poll Bludger):

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has Labor leading 54-46, out from 53-47 three weeks ago, from primary votes of Coalition 35% (down two), Labor 38% (up one), Greens 11% (steady) and One Nation 3% (up one). Scott Morrison is down two on approval to 46% and up one on disapproval to 50%, while Anthony Albanese is steady on approval at 37% and down one on disapproval to 46%. Morrison leads 48-34 as preferred prime minister, out marginally from 47-34. More to follow.

However, support for federal Labor might still be soft in anticipation of the vast campaigning resources available to the LNP. There is time for Labor to add more marketing magic to this favourable result.

Very unconventional but responsible risk-taking in alternative marketing strategies are needed in the next few months to extend Labor’s current polling lead.

I came across this marketing gem which was developed to attract the attention of Queensland Rail (QR) commuters in Brisbane.

The advertisement is quite unrelated to domestic politics but it emphasises that wisdom can extend well beyond the confines of political elites when it comes to decision-making on vital personal concerns (YouTube on Staying Level Headed). This style of advertising has a lot of potential to engage disenchanted voters in both regional and other metropolitan electorates.

Cleared of a tendency towards misogyny, working people from all genres can rise to the occasion by articulating their concerns in good advertising which trumps the talk-down prescriptions which are a feature of Scott Morrison’s nightly news briefings.

As our prime minister for self-promotion, Scott Morrison will never be short of words to justify his enduring leadership qualities when such issues of concern are raised by electors. His media forays can be very Napoleonic when the need arises (SBS News, 2 November 2021):

Speaking from Glasgow, where he is attending the COP26 climate talks, on Monday night, Mr Morrison said, “I must say that the statements that were made, questioning Australia’s integrity and the slurs that have been placed on Australia … I’m not going to cop sledging of Australia.

“I’m not going to cop that on behalf of other Australians.”

 

Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

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13 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    The sleaziest, slimiest, sluttiest, most saurian, reptilian, platyhelminthic parasite to backstab up to P M, is this pot of brimming turds reduced to a skinful of defective pseudo humanity, the Morrison maniacal misfit. Analysis and treatment should have been done ages ago, as this blot failed to succeed in the blatant lying industry of advertising, here, AND, in New Zealand. Nurtured then as an office bumboy within NSW liberal bureaucratic ranks, he was able to learn the essential filth of behaviour necessary to backstab up and in at the expense of Michael Towke, the locals’ choice. We are shafted with a misfit, manipulator, mendacious maniacal egofixated grub.

  2. Michael Taylor

    Phil, I take it you don’t like him. 😁

  3. leefe

    The only thing about ScoMoFo that’s Napoleonic is his ego.

  4. Rita

    Scott Morrison’s constant obsession with the next election is hardly a sign of true leadership . As Denis’article indicates his pitch is usually directed to marginal regional and outer suburban seats. The LNP takes everyone else for granted.

  5. Michael Taylor

    Rita, the LNP have a history of only looking at the next election. Anything past the election is of no interest to them.

  6. Leila

    60,000 years of Australian settlement and commitment to sustainability are largely ignored by the LNP. Clearing forests for new housing estates that are connected to high speed motorways is a very big priority for Scott Morrison in his New Cities Programmes. Virtually all freight going to large cities in South East Queensland is also by road. The Inland Railway is largely designed to assist road hauliers. Road transport will be needed for transits across Brisbane from near Beaudesert where the Inland Railway is to link up with the existing Interstate Railway Line that currently carries a token amount of interstate freight.

  7. Michael Taylor

    Leila, the First Australians were/are the world’s greatest conservationists.

  8. Paul

    Thanks Denis. Your article helps to explain why conservative parties control politics in most of those developed parliamentary democracies. Progressive parties will continue to be marginalized if they fail to address our real issues of concern. Boris Johnson is the arch-showman. Scott Morrison overcame the shock of that close election in 2016 with those briefings for evening news services. All appropriate for the Prime Minister for Marketing and Self-Promotion.

  9. Andrew J. Smith

    Good but highlights not just the Australian government but the society and electorate are ignorant of most nations except the UK and US due to media filtering e.g. no positives about the EU, Asian nations etc. vs. negative content and ‘immigrants’; deferring back to the ‘Anglosphere’ (think tanks, fossil fuels and influencers).

    One thinks what has been more important, and why most comparable middle nations are ignored in Oz media (always), has been to focus upon any LNP PM’s like Morrison’s PR, hot air and -ve relationship with Macron, France or EU on subs, while in general being drawn into and embedded in the political culture of the ‘Anglosphere’ of England and the US…..

    This plays into the climate science delayers and deniers by actually avoiding any talk of strategies and regulation; PR deflection like Morrison’s non commitment to even attending COP26 and even Johnson seemed to assume nothing would be decided at COP26….

    On Morrison’s hesitation on attendance, me thinks was related to sorting out the PR strategy with his ‘team’, e.g. when he speaks of ‘scientists’ one thinks of Australian excuses to use (imported) ‘technology’ in delaying versus any concrete plans; think his carefully crafted non statements and utterances need more parsing through and analysis, for implied meaning or sub text….

  10. Lara

    Commitment to reafforestation is one of the positive decisions from COP26 in Glasgow. The Green Wall across Africa in the Sahel should be continued across the world to other sub-tropical countries where forests have been trashed for cattle grazing.

  11. Chris

    A good explanation of the art of retaining political power in troubled times

  12. rubio@central coast

    Scott Morrison has been reclaimed on his stopover in Dubai on the way back from his disastrous perfromances at G20 and COP26. The LNP relishes in those conventional symbols that talk up military commitments to failed wars and more support for neoliberal values and tax avoidance. A new style of campaigning across a united front will be necessary to defeat the LNP in 2022 whenever the election is announced. The LNP has the support of preferences from far-right minor parties. Progressive politics needs to work on its own progressive front. Malcolm Turnbull seems to be ready to support this Progressive Agenda and would be a valuable asset in helping to neutralise the preferences from the far-right of Australian politics. This time big business will not necessarily campaign with such unifying force for the LNP as some sections of corporate Australia supports initiatives against carbon and methane emissions.

  13. Stella

    Denis, thanks for a well-researched summary of the current geopolitical situation.

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