Indo-Pacific nations look to NATO as a multilateral partner, security model

Indo-Pacific nations look to NATO as a multilateral partner, security model

Indo-Pacific nations and militaries are increasingly looking to NATO and other emergent multilateral alliances to help secure peace and prosperity and counter aggression and coercion in the region.

Country leaders are working more and morewith NATO, which turned 70 in April 2019, to strengthen regional security. Beginning in the early 1990s, Japan moved to strengthen its alliance withthe North Atlantic collective security body.Over the past decade, Japan established a strategic dialogue, signing a political declaration with NATO in 2013 and apartnership agreement in 2014. Japan and NATO are cooperating in areas ranging from cyber defense and maritime security to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to nonproliferation and defense research, according to the NATO website.

Likewise, South Korea has engaged in dialogue and cooperation with NATO since 2005. The two entered into a partnership in 2012, which they renewed in November 2017. Similarly, Australia began its cooperation with NATO in 2005 and its partnership in February 2013. New Zealand and Mongolia also signed partnership agreements with NATO in 2012, the NATO website said.

NATO partners and other Indo-Pacific nations such as Malaysia, Singapore and Tonga contributed troops to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

Some analysts are now calling for the creation of a NATO-China Council to address security implications of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) assertiveness and to maintain a global rules-based order. The council would be analogous to the NATO-Russia Council, created in 2002.

“The Council would spur the alliance to more seriously address China’s growing threats to NATO interests in Europe, in the Arctic, and, yes, in the Asia-Pacific,” Barry Pavel and Ian Brzezinski of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council wrote in an August 2019 commentary on the Defense One website.“The most effective strategy by the West to engage China and to counter Chinese aggression will involve transatlantic collaboration, not just in the political and economic realms but also in the military domain. There is no better institution to promote the latter than NATO.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in early August 2019 that NATO needs to understand the implications of China’s expansion around the world that could challenge NATO, Reuters reported.

“This is not about moving NATO into the Pacific, but this is about responding to the fact that China is coming closer to us,” Stoltenberg said, referring to the PRC’s controversial investments “in critical infrastructure in Europe, increased presence in the Arctic and also increased presence in Africa, and in cyberspace.”

“So, all of this makes it important for NATO to address the rise of China, and we do that not least by working closely with our partners in this region — Australia, New Zealand, but also Japan and South Korea,” Stoltenberg said.

(Pictured: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, meets with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Sydney, Australia, on August 7, 2019.)

NATO may learn from its Indo-Pacific partners as well as from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) how to best contain PRC expansionism, which they faced in the South China Sea where the PRC prevalently used bilateral relations to divide and conquer. To counter such aggression, ASEAN members have increased various bilateral defense and security pacts with one another and with other nations in the Indo-Pacific, moving a multilateral regional security arrangement closer to reality in the region. Many analysts predict that ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will eventually become a full-fledged, multilateral security organization.

Indo-Pacific nations might benefit from lessons learned byNATO, which was founded in 1949 and based on “two equally important pillars: security interests and values,” Lukas Trakimavicius, an economic security expert at the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote in a March 2019 blog for the Atlantic Council website.

“The common belief in liberty, human rights and democracy acted as a connective tissue that held countries together and helped to weather both geostrategic realignments and political storms coming from both sides of the Atlantic,” Trakimavicius wrote of NATO. “Time and time again, allies would rise to the occasion and through laborious consultations they would resolve disagreements and strengthen their bonds.”

“The fact that NATO successfully accomplished these towering tasks for so many years needs to be recognized and understood by today’s generation of leaders not only because of its historical value, but also because it presents an important source of guidance for the challenges that NATO faces today.”