NATO And The World By Imran Malik
The US’ obsessive compulsion to continuously reassert its global hegemony persists unabated. It now perceives newer, stronger, multidomain and multidimensional security threats and challenges to its pre-eminent global position. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the mercurial rise of China have caused it to reassess its global policies and strategies, particularly for Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
NATO is providing the organisational structure to devise, formulate and execute the new strategic concepts to that end.
NATO’s Strategic Concept 2022 thus reiterates its intent “to ensure the collective defence of its members through a 360-degree approach comprising three core tasks—deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management and cooperative security”. Its key aspects are based upon the perception that Euro-Atlantic security is being undermined by strategic competition and pervasive instability. It considers the strategic environment in the Euro-Atlantic area as destabilised and the Russian Federation’s “brutal aggression” against Ukraine violative of the norms and principles that contribute to a stable European security order.
It further reckons China’s stated “ambitions and coercive policies” as systemic challenges to its interests, Euro-Atlantic and global security and values. It fears that China is employing a broad range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power. It feels that China seeks to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, strategic materials and supply chains. It thinks that China is subverting the rules-based international order including in the space, cyber and maritime domains. Most importantly, it believes the Sino-Russian strategic partnership to be at the forefront of an authoritarian pushback against the rules-based international order. Cyberspace; emerging and disruptive technologies; the erosion of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architectures; and the security implications of climate change are the other threats that NATO perceives for itself.
The Sino-Russia Combine thus emerges distinctly as the major threat perceived by NATO. It has already expanded aggressively into Eastern Europe, subsumed the erstwhile neutral states of Sweden and Finland and now literally sits on the Russian border. Crucially, it is increasingly bringing China into its crosshairs, too. Is NATO then undergoing a basic paradigm shift; graduating from a Euro-Atlantic regional alliance/organisation into one with global dimensions, ambitions and pretensions? Will it now acquire a global avatar and a wider non-European, say Asian membership as well?
NATO has essentially been primed to deter the erstwhile USSR/Russia, from threatening its core interests. Russia however moved quite imperiously, disdainfully and remorselessly into Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine to secure its vital national interests. The US-led West/NATO could pay no more than vociferous lip service to condemn its actions.
In the current Ukraine war, the US is applying its well-known Strategy of Off-shore Balancing, yet again. It has put Ukraine on the front lines against Russia, mustered a rather nonplussed, confused and timid Europe to support and back it while it stays “off-shore” and reinforces European and Ukrainian war efforts. It has supplied Ukraine with a measured, well calculated albeit limited economic and military capacity to keep prolonging the war.
The intention is ostensibly to weaken, defeat and humiliate Russia rather than craft an unlikely Ukrainian victory. It will be a Pyrrhic victory, if at all, for the Europeans in general and the Ukrainians in particular.
If NATO is to acquire an Asian avatar (essentially against China) as well, then several geopolitical and geostrategic issues will have to be considered. What will NATO-in-Asia look like? Will it act independently in its current form, or build itself up around the already forward placed groupings like the QUAD, AUKUS, I2U2 etc and/or further create Coalitions of the Willing and then move as it did in the GMER, North Africa and Afghanistan, earlier on. Or will it be a combination of all these options? Is the concurrence of all NATO/Coalition members against China presupposed? Do they not have their national interests to look after; their independent bilateral relationships and economic inter-dependencies with China? Will they willingly place their national interests subservient to US diktat, as has happened to Germany, France and most of Western Europe in this Ukrainian war? Furthermore, do the members of NATO individually have the capacity to venture into distant theatres of war like the Indo-Pacific, the South Pacific, GMER, SCAR etc?
All members of NATO/Coalitions (nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states) could thus possibly become legitimate targets in a potentially fast evolving and deteriorating nuclear environment. Will these countries be willing to take the risk?
NATO has both non-kinetic and kinetic options in Asia. In the non-kinetic domain, it could just continue projecting overwhelming diplomatic, military and economic power and threaten isolation, the disruption of supply chains, SLOCs etc to deter and/or coerce China into submission. It could further exploit the technological advances in AI, cyber, space, hypersonic weapon systems and the electromagnetic spectrums to dominate and overwhelm it. These endeavours have remained unproductive thus far.
The recent multidimensional sanctions/embargoes against Russia have failed and are unlikely to succeed against China too. In this largely interwoven global village, economic and trade embargoes, particularly in China’s case, are likely to have deleterious effects for both sides—just like the rebounding oil, gas, food grains, fertilisers, etc crises now besetting Europe and the world!
The US might be constrained to conduct kinetic operations if its current coercive, non-kinetic endeavours fail. So, how will it respond if, hypothetically speaking, Taiwan becomes or is made to become the flashpoint? The US, as opposed to NATO, is obliged to come to its rescue. Will the US somehow apply the Strategy of Off-shore balancing in the Indo-Pacific too? Taiwan could be the new Ukraine and India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and others in NATO/the Coalitions, the new Europe! The most consequential unknown, however, will be the response of all its allies; even if it bites the bullet itself and leads the onslaught!
Any kinetic war between two of the world’s mightiest military-nuclear-missile powers, technological giants and economic behemoths will unleash an unmitigated Armageddon on the entire world!
Sanity must prevail. NATO must stay where it belongs.
The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @K846Im
NATO And The World By Imran Malik