The Rise of Mid-Level Powers

The security environment since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States has clearly demonstrated the limits of the United Nations, or even the US as the world’s sole military superpower, to maintain international security. However, like-minded mid-level powers with similar intentions could complement what the UN or the US lacks, effectively generating sufficient clout to stabilize the global security environment.

Japan, Australia, Germany, or Canada might be just such powers. They share common values as free and democratic countries. Moreover, they are non-nuclear powers with no permanent seats in the UN Security Council. All are long time allies of the US. In fact, over recent years these countries have already had many opportunities to demonstrate their ability and willingness to contribute to international security if called for, for they all also share a recognition that global stability directly serves their own national interests.

Nevertheless, subtle differences among these countries may influence their bilateral cooperation or coordination with the UN or the US. As a result, they must compliment each other’s advantages, characteristics, and interests in order to optimize their role in promoting international security.

For many years, Japan has been taking very cautious steps into this area, but substantial changes have occurred recently. In March 2007, Japan agreed to enter a “semi-alliance” with Australia, and issued a “Joint Communiqué on Japan-Australia Security Cooperation.” In early June, the two countries’ defense and foreign ministers held the first regular security meeting (the so-called “2+2 meeting”) in Tokyo, agreeing to promote defense cooperation in various fields, including international security.