Last Monday and Tuesday the NSS or Nuclear Security Summit was hosted in The Hague in my home country the Netherlands. While I was almost on the other side of the world I followed the event with great interest since it gave me a sense of pride that such a small country as the Netherlands was the place were almost all of the great world leaders came together. In total 53 countries were represented on the summit and in addition four international organizations. [1. https://www.nss2014.com/en/nss-2014/countries-and-achievements]
The NSS is a summit for countries to discuss nuclear terrorism, or more importantly, how to prevent weapons grade nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists. The summit was hosted for the first time in 2010 in Washington on the initiative of President Barack Obama. The summit was the product of a speech he gave in Prague in 2009, in which he called Nuclear Terrorism one of the greatest threats to international security.
The summit was however much more than only talking about nuclear terrorism. The two days in The Hague were used for a whole variety of topics concerning the world today and as much as I would like to talk about the summit itself I am going to take a closer look at what happened around the summit. The topics that were discussed around the summit were of much higher importance, because they are present issues whilst the summit is focusing on preventive methods of counteracting nuclear terrorism. It is not strange then that after the first day I was more interested in what was happening around the summit.
Dutch increase in trade with China.
China’s president Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan arrived already on Saturday to start their Europe visit in the Netherlands. Besides visiting the Netherlands and the NSS they will visit the key European countries Germany, France and Belgium, which houses the EU headquarters. Travelling with the presidential couple was a group of 200 trade delegates which focused on increasing trade between these European countries and China. China praised the Netherlands for their knowledge in the agricultural sector and on being a high tech innovator in the area of nanotechnology. The visit however focused primarily on the agricultural sector and food safety which is a returning problem for China. At the end of the visit, China and the Netherlands closed a combined trade agreement estimated to be worth $2.1 billion U.S. dollars. [2. http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/03/22/chinese-president-in-nederland-aangekomen-voor-staatsbezoek/] [3. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26695489] Some of the other key subjects for the trade delegation will be the acquisition of 150 Airbus aircraft as well as a visit to the headquarters of the EU. The reason for the visits is the development of Europe in being China’s most important trade partner. [4. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26695489]
The visit of the president of China shows even more to the Netherlands that they value our trade agreement and that this will only continue to benefit both nations in the future.
The South-Korea and Japan dispute
The summit was an opportunity for the President of the United States Barack Obama to sit down with two of its most important Asian allies: South-Korea and Japan. The reason for the talk were the mounting tensions between the two Asians powers which frustrates the U.S. administration.
One of the primary reasons for the tensions between the two nations were the Senkaku islands which South Korea also claims to be theirs. South-Korea is also still upset by Japan’s colonial rule from 1910-1945 in which Japan used a lot of Korean women for forced prostitution. These women were used as sex slaves or ‘comfort women’ in the front line of World War 2. Despite several apologies made by Tokyo it is still a sensitive topic. To add to the tensions the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced recently it is going to review the evidence upon which one of the apologies was made by the Japan. [6. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/japan-s-korea-meet-a/1049094.html]
The reason for the United States to sit down with both nations is primarily in order to guarantee the containment of North Korea’s missile testing. The U.S. cannot have the two allies struggling over their own disputes with potential danger looming from North Korea’s side. Although both nations still have a long way to go a small step is set in the right direction. I think that this a good step to take in order to constrain North Korea’s influence in the region. [7. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/03/04/us-appeals-to-japan-south-korea-to-improve-relations/]
World pressure on Russia over Crimea takeover
Probably the most important sideline talk was that of the G7 concerning the situation in Crimea in the afternoon of day one of the NSS. It caused the dinner which was hosted by King Willem Alexander to be delayed. The G7 (the former G8) is a group which consists of the worlds most powerful nations. It normally also consists of Russia, but due to the situation on Crimea the current Chairman of the G8 has been suspended. The G7 discussed the situation on the peninsula of Crimea. They talked about the possibility of tightening the financial sanctions on Russia in condemnation of the takeover. It has been reported that Russia amassed a large force on the Ukraine border giving the possibility of Russia wanting to take over more territory from Ukraine. [8. http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/dutch-news/obama-holds-g7-summit-as-russia-tightens-crimea-grip_288453.html]
Whilst further sanctions might follow as a result of the G7 talks, it has become obvious that the current sanctions already have a heavy effect on Russia. With the freezing of assets of Russia’s most wealthiest people in Europe and other financial sanctions Russia already lost between $45-$50 billion US dollars in the first three months of this year. [9. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ukraine-crisis/russian-sanctions-show-their-bite-effects-likely-deepen-n60686] In comparison they lost $63 billion in all of 2013 which was mainly caused due to the acquisition of TNK-BP by state oil firm OAO Rosneft worth an estimated $60 billion. [10. http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2014/01/17/russias-capital-outflows-at-whopping-63-billion-in-2013/] I do not know up until which extent the Russians forecasted these losses. I think it is clear that taking over Crimea will come at a serious price for Russia.
Looking back at the eventful two days in the Netherlands which were very interesting to watch from the other side of the world, I think that the classical format of having a summit which focuses on only one subject is not of this era anymore. While serious progress has been made on the counteraction of nuclear terrorism, I think that the focus was also going to what countries had to discuss among each other in order to cut out another visit to discuss these topics. I think that even though we have made a great leap in communication technology, the need for face-to-face dialogue between state leaders still remains. That this has to do with the fact that you never know who’s watching you when skyping I’ll leave in the middle for now. I have a strong belief though that across all fields the Nuclear Security Summit was a huge success.