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Going Global with NATO

Regional alliances should, for the most part, remain regional. Areas of the globe can count on a number of such bodies and associations with varying degrees of heft: the Organization of American States; the Organisation of African Unity; and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Only one has decided to move beyond its natural, subscribed limits, citing security and a militant basis, for its actions.

On April 27, the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, prime ministerial contender, made her claim that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization needed to be globalised. Her Mansion House speech at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet was one of those unusually frank disclosures that abandons pretence revealing, in its place, a disturbing reality.

After making it clear that NATO’s “open door policy” was “sacrosanct”, Truss also saw security in global terms, another way of promoting a broader commitment to international mischief. She rejected “the false choice between Euro-Atlantic security and Indo-Pacific security. In the modern world we need both.” A “global NATO” was needed. “By that I don’t mean extending the membership to those from other regions. I mean that NATO must have a global outlook, ready to tackle global threats.”

The Truss vision is a simple one, marked by nations “free” and “assertive and in the ascendant. Where freedom and democracy are strengthened through a network of economic and security partnerships.” A “Network of Liberty” would be required to protect such a world, one that would essentially bypass the UN Security Council and institutions that “have been bent out of shape so far” in enabling rather than containing “aggression”.

This extraordinary, aggressive embrace of neoconservative bullishness, one that trashes international institutions rather than strengthening them, was on show again in Spain. At NATO’s summit, Truss reiterated her view that the alliance should take “a global outlook protecting Indo-Pacific as well as Euro-Atlantic security.”

The Truss position suggested less a remaking than a return to traditional, thuggish politics dressed up as objective, enduring rules. Free trade, that great oxymoron of governments, is seen as “fair”, which requires “playing by the rules.” The makers of those rules are never mentioned. But she finds room to be critical of powers “naïve about the geopolitical power of economics,” a remarkable suggestion coming from a nation responsible for the illegal export of opium to China in the nineteenth century and promoters of unequal treaties. “We are showing,” he boasted, “that economic access is no longer a given. It has to be earned.”

The Global NATO theme is not sparklingly novel, even if the Ukraine War has given impetus to its promotion and selling. The post-Cold War period left the alliance floundering. The great Satan – the Soviet Union – has ceased to exist, undercutting its raison d’être. New terrain, and theatres, were needed to flex muscle and show purpose.

The Kosovo intervention in 1999, evangelised as a human rights security operation against genocidal Serbian forces, put the world on notice where alliance members might be going. NATO was again involved in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya as the country was ushered to imminent, post-Qaddafi collapse. When the International Security Force (ISAF) completed its ill-fated mission in Afghanistan in 2015, NATO was again on the scene.

In the organisation’s Strategic Concept document released at the end of June, the Euro-Atlantic dimension, certainly regarding the Ukraine conflict and Russia’s role, comes in for special mention. But room, and disapproval, is also made for China. “The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.”

A number of “political, economic and military tools” had been used to increase Beijing’s “global footprint and project power,” all done in a manner distinctly not transparent. The security of allies had been challenged by “malicious hybrid and cyber operations”, along with “confrontational rhetoric and disinformation.” Of deep concern was the deepening relationship between Moscow and Beijing, “and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order” which ran “counter to our values and interests.”

The alliance’s recent self-inflation has led to curious developments. Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been pushing Canberra ever closer towards NATO, a process that has been ongoing for some years. At the alliance’s public forum in Madrid, Albanese used China’s “economic coercion” against Australia as a noisy platform while decrying Beijing’s encroachments into areas that had been the playground, and in some cases plaything, of Western powers. “Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government is seeking friends, whether it be […] through economic support to build up alliances to undermine what has historically been the Western alliance in places like the Indo-Pacific.”

At a press conference held at Madrid’s Torrejon Air Base, the Australian prime minister felt certain that “NATO members know that China is more forward leaning in our region.” Beijing had levelled sanctions not only against Canberra but had proven to “be more aggressive in its stance in the world.”

Australian pundits on the security circuit are warmed by the visit, seeing a chance to point NATO’s interest in the direction of China’s ambition in the Indo-Pacific. Just as Norwegian historian Geir Lundestad described Washington’s Cold War involvement in Western Europe as an empire by invitation, NATO, or some bit of it, is being envisaged as an invitee in regions far beyond its traditional scope. None of this will do much to encourage the prospects for stability while leaving every chance for further conflict.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    NATO is being used and abused, by the USA especially, to avoid real international law concepts, in favour of a controlled triumphal incrowd, whitey, christian, post imperial grabfest. The USA avoids real efforts at international law, invades, corrupts, despoils, subverts, infects, yet will never sign on for tribunals or courts where USA citizens can be prosecuted for carrying out the murderous, thieving, occupying, distorting policies of seemingly all USA government heads, lofficials, agancies. So, USA leaders become, automatically, executive murderers, thieves, lawbreakers, by their orders, attitudes, policies, drives and perverted and corrupted philosophies. But, perhaps, Huns, Romans, so many, have done this wilfully. After all, the waters of the North Atlantic flow everywhere, sometime, past Guam, etc. The USA will expend conscripted, coerced and cheapskate skirmishers freely, whether they be Ukraine, Taiwan, Australian, or condemned freedom seekers…and as for the possible leadership success of Ms. L Truss, the U K has never been so low in intellectual promise, talent, skills of diplomacy, ability to assess and reckon.

  2. A Commentator

    The article seems to ignore-
    * Putin has continually changed his objectives for the invasion of Ukraine. It is now about expansion and restoration of prestige.
    * According to United Nations reports, western democracy, produces more satisfied populations with a higher standard of living. Why not support that system more collectively?
    * Western democracies can either be picked off one by one by expansionist autocracies or act with greater commitment and unity
    * No western democracy has territorial claims on Russia or China. Meanwhile the CCP has territorial disputes with 17 countries and Russia is clearly seeking to expand.

  3. Michael Taylor

    Phil, it bemuses me that the President of the USA is saddled with the generous title of “Leader of the Free World.”

    It was mockery that Trump was considered Leader of the Free World. I would have been happier to see Angela Merkel hold the title.

  4. Douglas Pritchard

    History only seems to record the bits that fit the current agenda.
    It should add that Putin did request membership of NATO at some point in time but it was vetoed by USA.
    Russia is in fact a neighbour, and they could chat over the fence
    The current predicament could have so easily been avoided.
    And Russia could be supplying cheap energy to Europe, and possibly some arms.
    Like the SE Asia scenario, this would not be allowed by Satan.

  5. B Sullivan

    AC “According to United Nations reports, western democracy, produces more satisfied populations with a higher standard of living. Why not support that system more collectively”

    Collectively like communism? Then why not support communism? It obviously works. Socialism works where the private sector fails. China has almost completely eradicated poverty. Cuba and North Korea have survived decades of crippling embargoes and sanctions. Democracies, take India as a comparison haven’t been anywhere near as successful in eradicating poverty. Do they even try? It’s odd that Democracies just don’t seem to represent the will of majorities, just the will of the privileged few with their fewer votes, who seem to be determined to maintain poverty in spite of any democratic will expressed by the majority.

    Closer scrutiny of democracies reveal systematic flaws that allow true democratic representation of the people to be subverted. The people in the US think they are voting to decide who will be their President, when they are just being polled to see how many electoral college votes their states are entitled to cast. Those votes decide which of the two party state candidates will be declared President based on the number of states, out of just 50, that each candidate wins. Then the President appoints the executive government, not from an elected parliament but from the private sector, his friends or even his family. The US is not democratic and it is subject to manipulation and abuse by the rich and powerful, who now have the means of mass profiling the population so that they can target their electoral spending where it will achieve the most favourable results.

    And of course in Australia the flaws in democracy are hidden by compulsory preferential voting that allows a party with only 30% of the democratic vote to win a majority in parliament because of the way voters are distributed through out a fixed number of electorates, so that a party with minority popular support can rule by virtue of a majority of electorates. This is what encourages pork barrelling and explains the reluctance of governments to act in favour of the democratic will of the majority instead of pandering to the will of minority regional electorates. It’s a bit better than the ‘rotten boroughs’ that used to determine Britains government, but it keeps people in power who are are satisfied that the poor shall always be with us.

    So invoking democracy is no excuse for discriminating against nations. As for the pretence of freedom…

    And the UN reports don’t reflect reality either. India is the biggest democracy in the world accounting for more people than China. Living standards are higher for the wealthy minority but the plight of the poor majority is just getting worse. And don’t quibble that India isn’t a western democracy. Democracy is a western ideology no matter where it is practised. The reports reflect only that Western democracies produce more ‘manufactured consent’ in spite of the vast inequality of living standards. Not the same thing as producing more satisfied populations and certainly not higher living standards for all.

  6. Nathan

    Binoy, do you think this push to have NATO go global has anything to do with the recent (Sept 2020) “Bill to Enhance Defence Force Response to Emergencies”, passed by the House of Reps and sent to the Senate for consideration? MP Zali Stegall had this to say in Parliament in Oct 2020: “But there are some concerns in relation to this bill. This bill allows for the deployment of defence forces, both Australian and foreign forces, to be deployed in Australia in response to natural disasters and other emergencies.”

  7. A Commentator

    “China has almost completely eradicated poverty”
    That’s not a fact. China has a poverty line of about a dollar a day. And still has many millions below that meagre amount
    And if you look at the various indices on population satisfaction and standard of living published by the United Nations, you’ll see the top 20 places in all are western democracies.
    Repressive regimes rank very lowly.
    I’m not aware of any report that demonstrates that autocratic regimes produce a satisfied population.

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