Sarkozy endorses Obama

The French president, facing his own reelection battle, dropped a subtle endorsement into a discussion of U.S. role in the Mideast peace process:

"There is also a presidential election in the United States. President Obama, who is a very great president, won't take the initiative before he's re-elected -- and I hope he will be -- but there's a place for France and a place for Europe."

The sentiment isn't much of a surprise. Back in 2008, Sarkozy issued a near endorsement of candidate Obama when the two met at the Elysée Palace, saying  “Of course it’s not up to the French to choose the next president of the United States of America" but “Barack Obama’s adventure is an adventure that rings true in the hearts and minds of the French people."

Obama and Sarkozy haven't always seen eye-to-eye, particularly on economic issues, but  given the level of anti-European rhetoric deployed during the U.S. primary, the Republican candidates can hardly expect the support of the French president. And in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Sarkozy's statement makes it into Romney or Gringrich's stump speeches.

I do think that, given the not-so-subtle way that Angela Merkel and David Cameron are supporting Sarkozy's reelection and Sarkozy's fairly unabashed support for Obama, it might be time to rethink the rules of when it's permissible for a leader to comment on another country's election. At least, if they are going to endorse, they should drop the unconvincing "it's not our place to weigh in" shtick that always seems to precede these statements. 



Asia overtakes Europe in military spending

This seems like a pretty significant shift:

Asian defence spending is this year set to exceed that of Europe for the first time in modern history as European Union nations slash their military budgets and Chinese expenditure accelerates, a leading think-tank reports on Wednesday.In its analysis of Asian defence spending, IISS reports that expenditure increased overall by 3.15 per cent in real terms in 2011. China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia accounted for more than 80 per cent of total Asian defence spending.

The IISS says Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are all investing in improving air and naval capacities, as are India, Japan and South Korea. However, China, the region’s top spender, has – according to IISS estimates – increased its share of regional expenditure to more than 30 per cent.

By contrast, European expenditure presents a very different picture. The IISS notes that last year’s Libya campaign highlighted gaps in the capabilities of European states in targeting, tanker aircraft, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

I'm actually a little surprised it's taken this long. Europe has only a fourth of the population of Asia, no individual economies that rival the size of China or Japan, and, with the exception of the Balkans, no major military conflicts since the end of World War II. Asia meanwhile has seen massive military buildups on the Korean peninsula, the India-Pakistan border, and, of course, China's military modernization. 

The demilitarization of the European continent is actually even a bit more dramatic, as the U.S. military will be moving units away from the continent as part of its planned pivot to Asia. In the short term this demilitarization seems to make sense given the priorities of European economies, but taking the long view, it's a pretty momentous development in modern history.