NATO shouldn’t try to do too much on China – The Diplomat
Contentious areas | security
NATO’s policy in China must focus on its core business.
Allied leaders at the NATO summit in Brussels in June began to prepare the ground for adjusting to the fierce competition with China. To this end, they tasked NATO with developing a new strategic concept that will be approved at next year’s summit in Spain. The next concept will be authoritative for the alliance’s strategy until 2030. However, NATO must be clear on the role it can play in adapting to its new challenger in the East.
On the one hand, the rise of China combined with the persistent threat from Russia gives increased importance to NATO as the protector of free societies. China and Russia are both illiberal challengers seeking to undermine Western unity. An influential “NATO 2030” expert group appointed by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg last year recommended that the alliance assume the role of “democratic bulwark” by strengthening its defense of liberal order.
On the other hand, NATO cannot stray too far in this direction and must ensure that it remains within its core mandate of ensuring the security and defense of its members – the main reason why alliance was created and lasted for over 72 years. In short, NATO must respond to the illiberal challenges posed by China as they endanger the security of allies. The alliance must restore this balance by focusing on three areas.
First, as NATO withdraws from Afghanistan, it must resist renewed temptations to “go global” simply because it is ill-suited and cannot agree to project its power beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. . NATO should, however, consider the usefulness of strengthening its existing partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are more advanced in their adaptation to China in terms of supply chain resilience and security and therefore may prove useful for the development of a common capacity for resilience.
Conversely, NATO is not the right forum for bringing together global counter-coalitions against China on, for example, human rights issues. Instead, NATO should focus on high tech with military implications, which is one aspect of China’s global rise where the alliance enjoys a clear comparative advantage. As China moves forward with the application of artificial intelligence in its military, NATO has a natural role in setting golden standards for interoperability between the defense systems of its allies and of its partners in Asia-Pacific.
Second, NATO should clarify the meaning of “resilience” by linking it as closely as possible to collective defense and national security. China is not a territorial threat to NATO, but its acquisition of transport hubs in Europe and its future ability to neutralize space navigation systems (like GPS) present vulnerabilities for the mobility of NATO forces. NATO in a crisis. In addition, it should not be forgotten that China’s 5G networks threaten the continued sharing of NATO intelligence.
Conversely, NATO is not always the right actor to prevent the intrusion of illiberal powers into the domestic politics of its allies. Increased levels of Chinese and Russian espionage call for increased cooperation between NATO intelligence services. But NATO does not seem to play a natural role, for example in strengthening police cooperation to combat other types of criminal activity, such as armed corruption, illicit party financing and the outsourcing of parties. influence operations, as previously proposed by President Joseph Biden to deal with both Russia and China.
Third, NATO should reflect on how it can strengthen internal cohesion in the face of a China seeking to co-opt elites in non-liberal states like Hungary and Turkey. Democratic setbacks are a problem, but it is doubtful that increased NATO surveillance and criticism from allies will make a difference. Instead, NATO should focus on military burden sharing as a formula for alliance cohesion. The rise of China shows why the Europeans must contribute more to the defense of their own continent to allow the United States to concentrate its military resources on Asia.
In adapting to the Chinese challenge, the United States is at one extreme: it may have abandoned the idea of a global NATO, but wants the alliance to expand into non-military security to contain its growing influence in Europe. Eastern countries and many Central European countries are on the other extreme, wanting NATO to remain focused on collective defense with Russia as the main threat. Balancing aspirations for a “democratic bulwark” with the traditional role of a defense alliance can strike the appropriate balance for NATO to agree on a realistic Chinese policy by the summit next year.