Published on the International Manifesto Group, Apr 16, 2022 https://youtu.be/BGAocoqiOLo
NATO, we should say, is the nuclear-armed fortress that helps to elevate the West above the rest; it anchors Europe to the West, severing it from its Eurasia geography.
But NATO members are also Pacific powers – the US, Canada, AND France and Britain which maintain possession of a few islands and some considerable maritime territory.
And it is the Pacific – and the makings of an Asian NATO – and conversely the Eurasian dimensions, that I will be discussing.
Today the world focus is on Russia in the Ukraine, but for the US, China is THE competitor – and as I see it, the Ukraine crisis is the first phase in the US’s last ditch battle to retain its world supremacy, a battle pitting ‘democracies against autocracies’, in which NATO is to serve as the armed vanguard against the so-called Russia-China alliance.
The world before NATO was to be a new world of the UN Charter which, in the coordination of the wartime Allies – the US, UK, Soviet Union and China – and in its commitment to national sovereignty, held the promise of a multipolar world.
It was this new world of the equality of nations that the US set out to smash in the first Cold War.
The Cold War in the Pacific divided China and Korea and involved of course two hot wars – in Korea and Vietnam at the cost of countless lives, countless war crimes.
The US wanted to set up an Asian NATO – however Australia lacked trust in Japan after WW2; Japan’s military was constrained under Article 9 of its constitution; and many Southeast Asian states, having fought to gain independence, chose non-alignment over subordination in a military alliance.
In 1955, SEATO – Southeast Asia Treaty Organization – was set up to block the ‘communist domino effect’ but it lacked unity and folded in 1977. The US instead relied on bilateral alliances and a spread of some 400 military bases to encircle China.
The Cold War never ended in the Pacific – China and Korea remain divided. Nevertheless, a degree of thaw in the 1990s allowed China to improve its relations in the region whilst ASEAN extended membership to the IndoChinese nations. Regional economic growth entered a new phase.
But then sending things into reverse, Obama embarked on his Asian pivot launching the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Trump followed declaring China a strategic competitor and initiated the Quad drawing India into a new network with Australia, Japan and the US.
2020 saw the counter-hegemonic trend gather momentum with agreement on RCEP – the regional comprehensive economic partnership for East Asia; the EU was also about to sign a major investment deal with China – these two developments recalling the coalition of Germany all the way across to China which Brzezinski warned in 1997 would be hostile to the US.
The US prepared to strike back: in September 2021 came AUKUS: a mini Asian NATO, an intervention by the outside Anglosphere sowing disunity within the region’s resolve for Asians to deal with Asian affairs.
NATO in the Pacific
NATO in fact has been expanding into Asia since 2012 with its Partnerships for peace programme drawing in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
By 2014, an equation was already being drawn between Russia and the Ukraine and China in the South China Sea.
At the 2019 NATO summit, Pompeo raised the issue of the China threat and in 2021, NATO’s 2030 forecast adopted an IndoPacific strategy which made very clear: Russia first then China.
Building on Trump’s anti-China approach, Biden has further elevated the Quad and focused more on Taiwan. But the Quad lacks military muscle hence the announcement of AUKUS.
The US and UK are to equip Australia with nuclear powered submarines, not only violating the NPT but also subverting the nuclear weapons free zones of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific – important advances of regional Independence in the 1980s. The purpose being to extend Australia’s naval reach much further into the South and East China Seas.
Australia is to be transformed into a forward base for the US military, providing the core of a regional ‘hybrid warfare’ network – with looser regional links covering diplomacy, intelligence sharing, media narratives, supply chains and so on.
The pact also represents a new level of cooperation in military technologies – in quantum computing and digital technologies – we’ve seen the recent announcement of the development of hypersonic weaponry.
AUKUS then is designed to secure US dominance over East Asia’s future growth not only promoting arms sales but also supporting US competition at the cutting edge of new technologies.
The Ukraine crisis
Amidst the Ukraine crisis, fears have been raised of a Chinese military takeover of Taiwan – in a completely false parallel between Ukraine, a sovereign state and Taiwan recognised by the UN as a part of China.
And as In Europe, militarisation in East Asia is accelerating: Japan has just increased its military budget by $50 bn, Australia has estimated the cost of AUKUS at an eye-watering $250 bn. With the newly elected conservative prime minister in South Korea, a Northeast Asian arc with Japan and the US, comes into view, and with both Japan and South Korea strengthening military links with Australia, there are possible ties here into AUKUS in the South.
AUKUS only received a lukewarm reception amongst regional powers with Indonesia and Malaysia most openly expressing their reservations. Again as in Europe, pressure is being brought to bear to erode the long held stabilising positions of Japan’s peace clause and ASEAN’s non-aligned instincts – using sanctions to splinter and subordinate the organisation – so as to clear the obstacles to militarisation,
The real parallel is not Ukraine-Taiwan but Ukraine-the South China Sea: whilst Russia insists on Ukraine’s neutrality; China has been seeking the neutrality of the South China Sea in negotiations on a code of conduct which limits permission for outside powers to set up naval bases.
The US has made the so-called democratic right of any country to choose its allies, the marker of the Cold War battle line of ‘democracies versus autocracies’. Here also lies the meaning of the ‘free and open IndoPacific’ – that is freedom to join in the making of an Asian NATO.
Why is it that the US is blocking peace negotiations on Ukraine’s neutrality? Why can’t it accept the legitimacy of Russia’s security concerns? Because this would set a precedent for China over Taiwan and the South China Sea. And it is China that is the real challenger.
Now, amid false allegations that China is supplying arms to Russia and propping Russia up, NATO is strengthening its links with the Pacific 4 – Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The upcoming summit this June will see an attempt to legitimise NATO’s increasing penetration into the IndoPacific region as a necessity to thwart Russia-China alliance.
Finally, NATO expansion is the root cause of the war in Europe; through its tentacles into East Asia, it is equally intent to divide and destabilise in a region now forecast to overtake Europe as the centre of the world economy by 2030.
Russia first, China next, NATO is bringing on a new world order – it’s called the jungle.
If China has not criticized Russia, this because it looks to the long term – to a new security plan not just for Europe but one which restores its Eurasian orientation, a new Eurasian Security Order
China, in taking its stand on the indivisibility of security, on security for all – not of one at the expense of another – is keeping alive the spirit of the UN Charter.
Jenny Clegg is an independent writer and researcher; former Senior Lecturer in International Studies and long-time China specialist; author of China’s Global Strategy: towards a Multipolar World (2009); activist in peace and anti-war movement in Britain.