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The Camp David summit

The Camp David summit
The Camp David summit | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take on the Camp David Principles, the historic meeting taking place in Camp David today between President Biden, the Japanese Prime Minister Kishida, and South Korean President Yoon. It's historic. It's a big deal. It's worth talking about. And frankly, I consider this to be the most significant successful piece of diplomacy of the Biden administration to date. It is roughly equivalent in my mind to the Abraham Accords of the Trump administration. In that case, this was leading to direct diplomatic engagement, opening relations between Israel, America's top ally in the region and the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, other American allies in the region. With the Saudis, not signing, but certainly getting closer. It's important in part because it stabilized a region that matters to the United States. It also allows for better strategic coordination long-term, and it is broadly speaking, supported by both sides.

Biden had only positive things to say about the Abraham Accords, and in indeed, if we see a Saudi breakthrough that would happen in the context of those accords. Democrats, Republicans can all agree that this was a positive move for the United States in the region. So too, that is true of this breakthrough, the Camp David principles with the most important US ally in Asia, Japan, and South Korea. Another very important ally of the United States, probably the second most important, certainly when you look at the troops that the Americans have positioned there. The level of regular engagement of certainly of the exercises that occur, the level of economic, of military aid and technology transfer that occurs, all of that is pretty significant. Here you have a relationship that really should have been much better between Japan and South Korea, and hasn't been for a long time, improved in part because the South Korea-China relationship got so much worse when the South Koreans decided they needed their THAAD missile defense system from the United States to defend them against North Korea.

The Chinese took vigorous exception and put sanctions against the South Koreans and there was economic damage. The Communist Party supported major demonstrations against South Korea and that really changed the view on the ground. And since then, we now have an election with a South Korean president that is much more oriented towards the west, much more hawkish towards North Korea and China. And a Japanese prime minister that is much more willing to take risks internationally that may not play as well at home. A much softer and willingness to engage with the South Koreans than, for example, Prime Minister Abe had been. Put all of that together and Biden takes advantage of an opportunity in front of him. And what we now see will be annual summits going forward, a commitment to consult on any security threat, which is not the same as a commitment to defend, but a recognition that there will be coordination stepping up regular military exercises as well as the first ever trilateral security hotline being created.

Clearly this is all of a piece with growing US-led security architecture in Asia. We see it with AUKUS and the submarine deal with the Australians. We see it with the Quad and India becoming much closer with the United States and its allies, especially on national security related issues. We also see it with the routine and regular participation of Japan and South Korea in NATO summits. And indeed, going forward, I expect that there will be more willingness on the basis of Japan's working with South Korea now through these Camp David principles to open the Quad to South Korea participation. Canada may well be very interested in that too. All of which bodes well for America's reach and alignment of its standards and values with other countries. And something that I believe would also last beyond the Biden administration. I don't expect that Trump is going to have anything nice to say about Biden here.

It's not his style, but I do think that he would uphold if he were to become president these regular trilateral meetings. In other words, something as opposed to the Iranian nuclear deal as opposed to the failed effort to get the transpacific partnership, the Paris Climate Accord that is bounced around from one administration to the next. This is a piece of foundational architecture that can be built upon over time, in large part because the Japanese and South Koreans are themselves so deeply committed to it. The problem of course, is China. So much of the reason why you have the willingness to form this architecture around Asia is because of greater concerns that China is a national security threat. Some of that is driven by greater decoupling of national security related elements of the global economy away from China. When you're talking about the US and its allies, some of that is greater military confrontation over Taiwan in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea.

And that's happening at a time when the Chinese economy is performing very badly. Now, there's a big question in how Xi Jinping is going to react to all of this. It's a bad time economically for him to be getting into a bigger fight with the Americans and others. He needs as much economic stability and growth as he can get, but that doesn't mean that he's going to sit and take it. There are political stability issues. He doesn't want to be seen as weak. He and his advisors all believe that the Americans are trying to contain Chinese growth and they see all sorts of policies that are being put in place, particularly by the Americans that lend support to that belief. And as a consequence of that, I think we are likely to see at least some level of Chinese response and reaction. We'll see how much of that plays out at the BRICS summit up coming in South Africa.

We'll watch the Chinese statements very carefully there. But certainly all of this puts a very big focus on what is expected to be a Biden-Xi Jinping summit at APEC in San Francisco in November. I'm certainly planning on spending the week out there, assuming it happens. And at this point I do believe it's very likely. It is the one chance to see if you can try to stabilize a relationship that continues to deteriorate, despite all stated efforts by Biden and Xi Jinping otherwise. And the fact is that Xi Jinping has different expectations of that meeting than Biden does. I think the Chinese expect this is all but a state visit. Biden expects a very important working level meeting with none of the pomp and circumstance. Can that circle be squared? And if it can't, does that mean that the meeting is off? We'll see. We'll see. I'm still optimistic, but all of the news that we're seeing is only making it both more important and more challenging to pull that summit meeting off.

Anyway, that's it for me and I'll talk to you all real soon.


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