Voice

How Japan uses development aid to influence the Security Council

Those who believe that rich states use their development and foreign aid budgets to advance strategic interests will find additional support in the latest issue of World Politics. Scholars James Vreeland and Daniel Yew Mao Lim examine Japan's approach to the Asian Development Bank, a regional institution in which Tokyo has wielded enormous infuence. Japan has the largest voting share and has always selected the bank president. Vreeland and Lim argue that Japan has used this privileged position in part to reward countries serving on the UN Security Council (link is to abstract only; full article behind paywall):

Japan has leveraged its political influence within the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to facilitate favorable loans to countries useful for its broader foreign policy goals at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)...Because of Japan’s checkered history of
imperialism, the ADB provides a convenient mechanism by which to
obscure from both domestic and international audiences favors granted
to elected UNSC members.

Analyzing the bank's lending patterns, they find that Asian countries serving on (or about to serve on) the Security Council typically get a significant boost in aid. The authors believe the strategic lending through the ADB  has yielded Tokyo both information about and potential influence over Security Council activities:

The dynamic nature of international affairs means that Japan cannot predict just when an elected member may prove useful, so providing assistance through the ADB represents a low-cost insurance policy that places countries in Japan’s debt. Should a significant issue arise, it behooves Japan to have some elected members of the incumbent
UNSC in its pocket.

Whether Japan gets all that much for its trouble is unclear. The authors point out that Asian states serving stints on the Council have always voted with Japan, but given the Council's tradition of consensus resolutions, this isn't as remarkable as it sounds. Many of these votes have come on peripheral issues from a Japanese strategic standpoint, including the African conflicts that are the Council's bread and butter. Moreover, the authors acknowledge that the pattern of lending they have identified may already be ending. China is exerting greater influence in the ADB and contesting traditional Japanese control.

The Multilateralist

David Cameron's high stakes EU gamble

British prime minister David Cameron will deliver a major speech on the country's relationship with the European Union this Friday. Via Reuters:

"He sees it as important to set out his view about it being in the British national interest to remain in the European Union, though (with) a changed relationship," the spokesman said.

Cameron has repeatedly said he wants Britain to remain in the EU but has made it clear he intends to try to repatriate a wide range of powers from the bloc in policy areas where his ruling Conservative party believes Brussels' influence has become overbearing and pernicious.

The government's current strategy is to seek reform in the relationship with the EU (including, likely, the repatriation of some powers) and then subject the new relationship to a referendum, likely in 2017 or 2018. That approach has led certain European leaders to  charge that Britain is "blackmailing" other EU members by holding out the implicit threat of withdrawal.

Others, including the Obama administration, are concerned that by opening fundamental questions about the relationship British leaders may be unleashing a process they cannot control. Anders Aslund argues that Britain is perilously close to a catastrophic decision:

If the United Kingdom were to have a referendum on its relationship with the European Union and actually depart, it would lose most of its relevance in Europe and with the outside world, notably the United States.

With its departure from the European Union, the United Kingdom would more specifically lose all its influence with the European Union. It would decline to the kind of dependence and high costs of financial contributions that Switzerland and Norway face. Little wonder, that the elites of those two countries want their nations to join the European Union.

A British exit could only be understood as a stab in the back to the European project, so the United Kingdom should not expect any sympathy. Such alienation would in all probability lead to the United Kingdom suffering worse conditions than Switzerland and Norway.  A departing United Kingdom cannot take its access to the much-appreciated single European market as granted.

Less commented upon has been the danger that Cameron's strategy poses to the sovereigntist bloc in British politics. If the renegotiation-and-referendum strategy succeeds, the prime minister will have dealt a strong, and perhaps lethal blow to the Euroskeptic wing of his own party.