TL(PM) DIGEST: NATO spreads to Japan
Plus Biden orders troops to the border, German immigration reform to address skills gap, and workforce woes at NASA's premier robotic probe institute
1. NATO to open liaison office in Japan
What happened? NATO will open a liaison office in Japan, Japanese and NATO officials confirmed to Nikkei Asia, while Japan intends to create an independent mission of its own to NATO. These plans arose during NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Japan at the end of January, and mirrors existing NATO liaison offices in places like Ukraine, Kuwait, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation’s headquarters in Vienna.
Why does it matter? A one-person office in Japan is a far cry from the “global NATO” advocated by some foreign policy thinkers off and on in recent decades, but it will allow the trans-Atlantic alliance to consult more closely with Tokyo on matters of global security. Along with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s March visit to Ukraine, it signals not just closer cooperation between Japan and NATO but a shift in thinking about European and Japanese security that takes a global rather than regional view.
TLP’s take: It’s good to see broader thinking about foreign policy take root in both Tokyo and Brussels—thinking that better reflects strategic and geopolitical reality, particularly the challenges posed by China and Russia. As always, translating this initial step into deeper and more productive ties remains the hard part of the diplomatic equation—one America will need to do its part to keep on track.
2. Biden to send troops to the border amid expected migrant surge
What happened? President Biden looks set to order 1,500 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help deal with the migrant surge expected when pandemic-era restrictions lapse on May 11. Local Mexican officials estimate some 35,000 people are waiting to cross the border in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, alone.
Why does it matter? Local government officials like Mayor Eric Adams of New York City have repeatedly registered complaints about the Biden administration’s immigration policy, saying they’ve been forced to take up responsibilities to care for migrants that they can’t afford to shoulder. Significant numbers of migrants have already begun to cross into El Paso, while state and local authorities across the country have tussled with each other over the best response to these influxes of migrants.
TLP’s take: The Biden administration’s immigration policy (such as it is) clearly needs work; right now, it does little to reduce the illegal and dangerous border crossings while setting up vicious political fights between states and localities over who handles—and pays for—new migrants. Sending troops to the border to deal with an anticipated surge amounts to a temporary band-aid for the problem, not a solution to this vexing policy question.
3. Germany looking to sane, managed immigration reform to deal with skills shortage
What happened? The Financial Times reports that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is looking to pass broad immigration reform “to attract global talent to Germany, arrest its demographic decline, and resolve a dearth of skilled workers that is becoming the number one concern of some of its biggest companies.”
Why does it matter? Germany is estimated to lack nearly 7 million qualified workers for key industries by 2035. New immigration laws are the government’s solution to a problem that is only getting worse:
The government’s new immigration law would allow people to go to Germany for work even without a German professional qualification, Heil said. “It will be enough for them to have an employment contract, some professional experience and have received vocational training in their home country.”
Germany will also introduce a “chance card” allowing people to earn points based on their vocational training and experience, whether they have a connection to the country and speak German, and are younger than 35. “When they have enough points they can come [here] to look for a job,” said Heil, labour minister since 2018 and one of Germany’s longest-serving cabinet members.
TLP’s take: Germany’s solution to its skills gap is to create sane, well-managed immigration policy that meets the country’s workforce and economic needs. Although the political hurdles are clear, the U.S. Congress would be wise to study this model and find some bi-partisan way to reduce the political heat on the immigration issue to create a more rational and trustworthy system of legal immigration that fits our nation’s needs while controlling the borders.
4. Workforce woes at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory
What happened? The Washington Post reports on troubles facing NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the research center responsible for the Voyager interplanetary probes and a fleet of Mars rovers. According to an independent NASA review board, recent delays to a mission to the asteroid Psyche indicate that JPL has taken on more missions than its limited workforce can reasonably be expected to handle.
Why does it matter? The mission to Psyche and another to Venus (still on the drawing board) have been delayed, and JPL continues work on two major projects: a Mars sample return mission and an orbiter of the Jovian moon Europa. But JPL’s workforce problems are symptomatic of wider shortages of skilled and specialized workers that industries across the country now face.
TLP’s take: NASA’s robotic exploration missions should receive full support from Congress and the administration. But as in other industries, shortages of skilled workers remain a severe bottleneck—one that requires better pay for current workers and a sane immigration policy focused on skilled immigrants to rectify in the near term.
Just one more thing…
Scientists on a joint expedition of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Schmidt Ocean Institute have discovered new “black smoker” hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near Puerto Rico that release water as hot as 645 degrees Fahrenheit.