Something good happened in 2022 from bad. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a notable event A show of unity and determination by the democratic world.
United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Australia imposed sanctions on Russia Unprecedented economic sanctions. Ukraine received billions of dollars in military and economic aid. In Europe, Germany has promised historic changes to its defense and energy policies. Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO.
China’s hostility towards Taiwan and declaration of “unlimited” partnership with it Russia He also reacted in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan announced a major increase in military spending. The Philippines strengthened ties with the US, while India, Japan, Australia and the US held a summit.
Europe and Asia also began to cooperate more closely. For the first time, Japan, South Korea and Australia participated in the NATO summit.
This year, maintaining the unity of the advanced democracies will be more difficult. Active and committed US leadership has been key to the response to the Russia-China alliance, but serious tensions are emerging between Washington and its allies.
In Europe, the key issues are both strategic and economic. The Western coalition is divided over future military aid to Ukraine. Those divisions were on display at a meeting of the Allies in Ramstein on Friday, after Germany resisted intense pressure to allow Leopard tanks to move into Ukraine.
Although headlines following the meeting focused on the isolation of Germany, the divisions within the Western alliance are more complex than that. There is a radical wing that includes Poland, the Nordic countries, the Baltics and the UK, and is pushing for the transfer of more advanced weapons, including tanks, to Ukraine.
America is somewhere between the hawkish (hard line) and the ultra-cautious Germans. There has been earlier concern that the Biden administration is fearful of the threat of nuclear war and therefore has been too timid about delivering advanced weapons such as long-range missiles. But the criticism is muted because the United States is by far the largest donor of military and financial aid to Ukraine.
These divisions are manageable now, but if war turns against Ukraine this spring, the accusations could turn ugly.
There is also an economic dimension to the tensions between the US and Europe, with many in the European Union now accusing Washington of protectionism by heavily subsidizing green industries and electric vehicles within the United States.
The typical US response—limiting itself to Europe providing its own subsidies for green technology—may be unrealistic. Letting states subsidize their own industries could blow up the EU’s single market, while a unified subsidy regime across the bloc would immediately spark debate over how the money is raised and where it is spent.
Behind all this is a growing fear that the US is leaving Europe behind economically, and that the invasion of Ukraine is hastening this process. European industrialists point to the key advantages the US enjoys: cheap energy, abundant land, technological leadership and the world’s reserve currency.
And then there’s China. Confrontational language and attitudes toward Beijing are already common in American politics. Most European and Asian governments are still cautious. China is now the biggest potential faultline in relations between the US and its Asian allies. Japan, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines are treaty allies and agree on the need to increase military deterrence to China.
I came to know about this division while chairing a session of the World Economic Forum. Stephen Pagliuca, an American participant and outgoing co-chairman of Bain Capital, argued that the world’s democracies would increasingly start doing business with each other, regarding the risk of an invasion of Ukraine being economically dependent on an autocracy. Quoting as a warning. Taka Niinami, chief executive of Suntory Holdings, was wary of the argument, welcoming the fact that Japan’s trade with China is growing.
Singaporeans are concerned about the extent of US sanctions on technology exports to China. They worry they will provoke a new and dangerous escalation in tensions between the US and China.
These tensions could be a problem for efforts to hold together democracies in Europe, Asia and the Americas over the next year, but while divisions within the “Global West” are palpable, they can be mitigated through smart policy changes. US policy makers are increasingly aware of Europe’s anger over the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
NATO allies must agree a common position on arms supplies to Ukraine before fighting escalates. The unity among the Democratic allies achieved in 2022 was a valuable thing. It should not be wasted in 2023.