Antonia Colibasanu wrote that allowing the United States to concentrate its military resources in the Pacific requires a division of labor within NATO, which requires Europeans to be responsible for defending their continent.
Antonia Colibasanu Geopolitical futures‘Chief Operating Officer. Geopolitical Futures (GPF) was founded in 2015 by George Friedman, an international strategist and author of The Next 100 Years.
NATO is no longer a military alliance serving the allies against the Soviet Union. For Eastern Europe, joining NATO is the first step to joining the European Union. Without the serious threat of imminent conflict from the East, this brings much-needed hope for economic development. Things changed a bit in 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Moscow has indicated that it is ready to protect its buffer zone from Western “encroachment”. Georgia, a NATO peace partner, has not benefited much from the alliance, but the alliance still succeeded in preventing a larger-scale multinational conflict against its members.
Then came the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, which replaced the pro-Russian government with a pro-Western government. This effectively creates a new containment line that unites the Baltic to Black Sea countries around the strategic partnership triangle between the United States, Romania, and Poland, and is supported by the Three Seas Initiative, which aims to support development needs Military cooperation between countries in the infrastructure of the region. Therefore, in the past five years or so, the number and complexity of military exercises in Eastern Europe have continued to increase, always showing the important participation of the United States and Britain.
At the same time, the rest of Europe—the Western allies of NATO—mostly remained silent about Russia, treating Russia as if they were treating them: a remote, non-emergency threat. In any case, they all have their own problems. Since 2008, Western Europe has had to deal with an unprecedented economic crisis, followed by a refugee crisis. Both pose new challenges to internal security. Countries such as France and Germany are preoccupied with the direct threat of terrorism and social instability. Of course, some of these threats are adjacent to Russia, and NATO has established research centers throughout the region to study them.
This touched on a basic principle of NATO: intelligence sharing, which is vital to the alliance but is always elusive. During the Cold War, intelligence sharing was relatively simple because it only meant collecting and disseminating information about the Soviet Union. But as NATO has developed, it has established threat lists and reported risk assessments that allow countries to be grouped according to common priorities for solving specific problems. NATO serves as a communication platform for Eastern countries, coordinating within and outside NATO. Based on existing strategic partnerships, discuss their interoperability and capabilities directly with the United States. They have a different level of coordination with France or Germany.
In addition, capabilities vary from country to country. Because some NATO member states have been reluctant to invest in national defense over the past 30 years, the alliance lacks interoperability. This is why since the Obama administration, the United States has been recommending NATO members to increase their defense budgets. But when their economy falls from one crisis to another, it is easier said than done. In essence, the different priorities among NATO members make them less willing to share information with each other, which creates a trust deficit and reduces military efficiency.
What is different now?
NATO’s existing strategic concept was prepared in 2010. Written in the context of the Afghan war, it discusses “superpower competition” but does not consider the potential of Russia and China to become potential challengers to the established order. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated geopolitical trends that are already underway. The supply chain crisis has spawned the need to establish safe logistics for strategic operations. It emphasizes that Europeans may be hurt by over-reliance on China. In short, the rise of China and the constant threat of Russia have given NATO a new common goal.
The US strategy is to ensure that it is possible to simultaneously defeat a major power and deter another major power in different theaters. For this reason, it is well known that Washington has begun to turn to Asia and strengthen alliances with like-minded countries in the Western Pacific, but it also needs to place its deterrent capability against Russia on its agenda. (Again, the pandemic has accelerated the trend that has already started.) For the United States to concentrate its resources, including its military resources, in the Pacific requires a division of labor within NATO, which requires Europeans to be responsible for defending their continent. This is the only way the United States can reduce or even eliminate its existence.
In order for NATO to achieve its stated goals, Europeans not only need to invest in their own preparations to make their conventional deterrents credible, but they also need to play an active role with China. Brussels seems to have begun to understand. Britain, France, and Germany participated in the Malabar exercise led by India, and this year all the member states of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the United States, Japan, India, and Australia) participated in the exercise. In fact, the United Kingdom has made it a strategic goal to cooperate with the four countries and expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific region (mainly the Commonwealth).
To this end, NATO needs the support of an economic alliance platform to give way to the infrastructure needed to enhance trust and military interoperability. The first is the military strategic advantage that the alliance provides to the United States and Europe: it guarantees access to high-tech resources, and it is important to prevent China from acquiring these resources. To achieve this goal, the European Parliament rejected the trade and investment agreement with China in May. According to reports, the United States and the European Union have begun discussing whether it is possible to reach a transatlantic agreement on artificial intelligence. The United States and Eastern European countries have implemented the Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act, which will stimulate digital sovereignty.
China is an economic power, and it is possible to become the world’s leading technological power-this is something the Soviet Union has never done. NATO wants its members to maintain their advantages in so-called emerging disruptive technologies. This means that NATO and its member governments need to work with private communities that develop dual-use technologies to ensure that these innovations are not exploited. Since NATO has traditionally defined military technology standards for its members, it can play a similar role in setting interoperability standards for emerging disruptive technologies and defining their use specifications and export controls to prevent them from falling into the hands of hostile forces. Interoperability also refers to simplifying artificial intelligence algorithms and sharing data sets, which makes it essential to establish some common artificial intelligence rules between the European Union and the United States. (It is commendable that these rules are already being developed.) With Asia-Pacific countries and regions Cooperation, especially with Quad, will promote the alliance’s efforts to decouple the supply chain and technology from China.
All of this requires enhanced coordination among member states, which in turn may lead to increased intelligence sharing based on the growing trust among NATO allies. In fact, the current world structure helps to enhance NATO’s military functions while making full use of NATO’s political power. Given the economic problems faced by all NATO member states-especially those facing Western Europe-it remains to be seen whether the ambitious discussions surrounding NATO’s strategic concept will become a reality.