Tag Archives: NATO

What should NATO do about Asia?

NATO Asia Wales

Prime Minister David Cameron, host of the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales,  has indicated that one of the five goals for this gathering should be the establishment of a ‘global security network‘ of partnerships.

“we should demonstrate a clear commitment to working with others who share our values and to maintaining an international rules-based order that promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law. I support the proposed interoperability initiative with 24 of our partners to sustain these skills and relationships and I would like our defence ministers to meet with a smaller group to discuss enhanced opportunities for working together. ” (link)

Good idea. I suggest the Allies begin by looking at Asia.

I can think of at least three reasons NATO should take a position on its role in Asian security:

(A) Just as security in Asia is becoming vital for global economic prosperity, it is also becoming more fragile. We have a stake. (B) America’s alliance structure in Asia means conflict there would likely involve NATO’s leading ally, and Washington would expect NATO Allies’ support. We will be involved. (C) History shows that Asian allies play a key role in successful Western grand strategy: (i) Anglo-Japan Alliance to contain Russia; (ii) Chiang and Mao and finally Stalin for the continental front against Imperial Japan; (iii) Nixon’s turn to China to contain the USSR. We will need Asia again.

Then again, there are also factors that make it difficult for NATO to take a more meaningful position on Asian security:

(a) The greatest driver of instability in Asia is China’s rise, and NATO allies can’t agree on a China policy. We are divided. (b) NATO Allies are focused on collective defence and responding to the threat from Russia in Ukraine and other places on its Eastern Border. We are short-sighted in our thinking. (c) Cuts in NATO Allies’ defence spending have greatly reduced its capability to deploy in Asia. We are weak.

So what should NATO do about it? A new trans-Atlantic bargain – USA supports European Allies’ efforts to deter Russia, and in return European Allies support American efforts to deter conflict in Asia – is probably unrealistic. Rather than one big thing, it might be better to go for a lot of little moves that shift the centre of gravity in the right direction:

1) Differentiate NATO’s partners in Asia according to two groups: those who show a commitment to the organization’s founding principles (democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law), and those who don’t. The former would include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, ROK, Mongolia. They get the full package including consultation on NATO activity, intelligence sharing, joint exercises and other close partnership activity. Those who fail to show such commitment get engagement to build confidence and mutual understanding, but also become the target of an advocacy effort in order to further the principles of the North Atlantic treaty.

2) Make Asian security issues a regular topic of consultations under Article 4, and invite the first category of Asian partners.

3) Beef up aspects of NATO interoperability that are relevant for Asian security, such as maritime cooperation, joint amphibious operations and military support to civil emergency planning for disaster response. Make sure to conduct at least one big exercise in these areas per year, inviting the close Asian partners.

4) Extend cooperation to close Asian partners on doctrine and tactics in fields like cyber, SOF, and conducting ‘grey area’ operations and information warfare.

5) Extend cooperation on Security Sector Reform and civil-military relations to Asian nations such as Myanmar, that are oriented towards closer adherence to NATO principles.

6) NATO could forge a partnership with ASEAN, as suggested by US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta at the 2013 Shangri La dialogue (link).

7) Establish a NATO East Asia Liaison office (similar to that put in place for Central Asia) to enhance NATO Allies understanding of Asian security, liaise in the region and work with Australia, NZ, ROK, Japan, and Mongolian authorities to maximise NATO’s partnership instruments in support of the goals set out in their cooperation programmes with the Alliance.

I understand those who argue for a focus on today’s threats, and would not have Asian affairs take up space on the agenda at the expense of issues like Ukraine and the Islamic State. But before long Asia’s security issues are going to look just as important to NATO as Russia and Islamist terrorism looks today. But understanding and relationships take time to build, and so the sooner we turn our attention to Asia the better.

If NATO could agree on these small steps now, then after a few years it would be in a better position to judge whether the protection of its core interests require it to engage more directly in Asian security.

NATO PLAN AHEAD

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Will NATO ‘regroup’ in Asia?

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What will this September’s NATO Summit say about the alliance’s role in Asian security?

Chatham House’s Director Dr Robin Niblett is arguing that NATO needs to step up  (link) -

“NATO members would all be seriously affected by an outbreak of hostilities in East Asia. Western companies with global supply chains rely on smooth transportation links between Asia, the US and Europe. The notion that the US alone among NATO members should take responsibility for helping to manage crises in the Asia-Pacific region while its European allies focus on commercial interests would erode the foundation of the Atlantic Alliance at a time when changing demographic profiles and geographic perspectives are weakening the transatlantic instinct…
…The Wales summit may see NATO begin to distinguish between its different types of partners. For example, long-term enhanced, cooperative arrangements would make sense with the small number of countries in Europe and beyond – such as Finland, Sweden and Australia – that share the transatlantic community’s principles and have participated in recent military operations alongside NATO forces. Countries such as South Korea and Japan, which have not been as closely involved in operations, but are also treaty allies of the US, could constitute the next level of cooperative arrangement. “

 

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NATO and Asia-Pacific Security

“America, Europe and the Pacific,” speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, San Francisco, July 9, 2014.

Transcript here.

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US calls North Korean missiles ‘an Article 5 threat’, like Syria

Screen shot 2013-08-31 at 23.22.27

In his valedictory speech (June 17 2013 at Carnegie Europe) entitled ‘Renewed Ambitions for NATO’, US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder made the following comment on the relevance of the US Pivot to the alliance [emphasis added]: 

“Contrary to suspicions on this side of the Atlantic, the United States does not intend to pivot away from Europe. Instead, we continue to look to Europe as an essential partner in facing all security challenges, from wherever they may come.

Let me be clear on this point. The United States is not abandoning NATO—our commitment to security in the North Atlantic community is deep and enduring.

But we also see threats looming on the horizon—including from far beyond Europe. North Korean missiles are an Article 5 threat to the United States and Canada just as Syrian missile are an Article 5 threat to Turkey and Europe.

And we want to make sure that we face these threats collectively, as true partners.

So the question is not whether Washington will choose Asia or Europe. As my former boss, Secretary Hillary Clinton, used to say … we Americans know how to walk and chew gum at the same time. The question is whether our NATO Allies will make the commitments necessary to face 21st century dangers together.”

What does that mean in practice? Something in between more ‘strong condemnations‘ and an actual presence in Asia for the alliance (recently ruled out by Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen)?

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Europe’s undeclared role in Asian security – time to bring the arms trade under strategic control?

eurofighterPeople sometimes ask ‘what should be Europe’s role in Asian security?’, but surely we have first to understand the role European nations and their institutions are already playing.

Something that doesn’t often get discussed (excepting the EU embargo on arms to China) is the increasingly important role played by Europe as supplier of defence equipment and technology to Asia, Continue reading

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NATO and Japan explore opportunities to cooperate on emerging security challenges

20130701_130701-sps-japan_rdax_276x172NATO and Japan explore opportunities to cooperate on emerging security challenges – “such as cyber defence, counter-terrorism and non-proliferation. Opportunities for collaborating on responses to such challenges through science and innovation were a particular focus of the visit” (link)

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Europeans at Shangri-la dialogue achieve Woody Allen’s 80%

scarlett-johansson-woody-allen04Woody Allen said that 80% of life is showing up. By that standard, the various European security actors (EU, NATO, a couple of sovereign states) made the grade at this year’s Shangri-la shindig on Asian security.

EU: Cathy Ashton went (first time) and gave a speech in plenary. It was Continue reading

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NATO response to attack by North Korea

There are some stories circulating to the effect that NATO is going to do this or that if North Korea launches an attack, e.g. ‘NATO to protect US from N. Korea Attack’ here and ‘Senior NATO Official Will Not Rule Out Conflict with N. Korea’  here).

All the hard evidence so far indicates that NATO doesn’t know what it will do until an attack or something like it occurs. The North Atlantic Council would have to first meet to discuss the situation and options for any possible alliance response in the light of what just happened. Remember, Article 5 is about an armed attack on Allies in Europe or North America, not in Asia. An interview the NATO Secretary General gave to the Japanese media on 16 April during his visit to Japan makes it pretty clear:

The key point is around minute 1:

If a NATO ally is attacked it will probably be raised for consultation among NATO allies. NATO allies will discuss the situation and make decisions based on the specific circumstances

This is all the SecGen can say, which is no more than an explanation of the NATO process following the NATO Charter – specifically Article 4 (discussion), rather than 5 (collective action). And yet saying ‘we don’t know what we will do’ has more influence than saying nothing at all.

As for my earlier suggestions about employing NATO’s Article 4Philip Cane at Atlantic Community has some practical suggestions about what NATO could do before an attack by the North (read at ‘South Korea:NATO’s Asian Pivot‘).

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NATO, Japan sign Joint Political Declaration – no ‘permanent’ role for NATO in Asia

Anders Fogh RasmussenA full text of the declaration is available here. Not much of note in the text itself, but there was an intriguing if slightly confusing bit of language about what NATO is not  doing in Asia -

On his video blog, the SG makes the point that “my visit does not mean that NATO seeks a presence in the Asia Pacific region, but it does mean that NATO seeks to work with the Asia-Pacific region…” Subtle distinction, but clear enough because the North Atlantic Charter is also pretty clear on allies needing to be from the North Atlantic area.

Then Rasmussen told reporters after the signing ceremony “While NATO has no ambition to take on a permanent role in Asia, we see very clearly the advantage of working with like-minded partners like Japan”.

But why the qualifier ‘permanent’?

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NATO Secretary General to visit the Republic of Korea

(Photo courtesy of NATO) (Yonhap)

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit the Republic of Korea from 11 to 13 April 2013.

In Seoul, he will meet with President Park Geun-hye, Speaker of the National Assembly Kang Chang-hee, Minister of  Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, and Minister of Defence Kim Kwan Jin.

Fogh Rasmussen gave an interview to Yonhap press agency, which offers some context. Here are the highlights:

“We are watching the development in the Korean Peninsula with great concern,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency Monday at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.  “North Korea’s rhetoric, attitude and actions are provocative. North Korea’s actions pose a threat to regional and international security. They’re irresponsible; they are in defiance of the international community.  “So I have a very clear message to North Korea. Stop what you are saying. Stop what you are doing.”  Continue reading

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