What Is NATO Doing In Asia?

According to Russia, what NATO is doing in Asia is trying to keep China in check by expanding its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Given that NATO bears the word “Atlantic” in its name, President Putin has wondered what possible rationale the alliance may have for helping the US in its “pivot to Asia” plan of attempting to “contain” China.

“We see what’s happening around Russia and around China. We see attempts by the West to shift NATO’s activities to Asia, which clearly go beyond the scope of the charter goals of this organization. It’s called the North Atlantic bloc – what would it be doing in Asia? But no, they’re dragging themselves into Asia, provoking, escalating the situation, creating new military-political blocs of varying composition,” Putin said in a year-end press conference on Thursday.

Putin’s remarks followed months of talks on the Western alliance’s expanding presence in the Asia-Pacific region, purportedly to “counter” China, between the Biden administration, NATO officials, and significant US allies in the region.

Washington has recently attempted to establish several regional alliances in Asia, such as the AUKUS security pact with Canberra and London, which promises Australia access to nuclear submarine technology in exchange for base access, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or QUAD) with Australia, India, and Japan.

Regarding NATO, which the US forged and established in 1949 to counter the alleged threat posed by the Soviet Union and its allies, its officials have made a series of increasingly hostile remarks toward Beijing throughout the year. This was in addition to NATO’s pre-war on terror” raison d’être, which vanished in 1991 with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR.

Although the People’s Republic of China is not officially a NATO “adversary,” alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg stated in July that the country does challenge “the rules-based international order,” which is code for the US-dominated world order, and it poses a “threat” to Taiwan in addition to engaging in “a substantial military buildup” that accounts for only one-fifth of NATO’s projected $1.26 trillion in defense spending in 2023. The alliance has further charged China with establishing strategic dependencies through the deployment of its enormous economic might, supply chain management, and technological dominance.

The Western bloc is allegedly “spreading its tentacles to the Asia-Pacific region with the express aim of containing China,” sending “jets and warships for military exercises in China’s surrounding waters,” and preparing to open a contentious liaison office in Japan, according to Xinhua, a Chinese official and media outlet. For the time being at least, the latter plan has been dropped. Nonetheless, in July, the alliance and South Korea signed an “Individually Tailored Partnership Program” that covered counterterrorism, non-proliferation, cyber defense, and “practical cooperation to uphold and strengthen the rules-based international order.”

According to an indictment made public by lawmakers on Monday, the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors Office stated that the Chinese plotted to steal a US Chinook helicopter through a pilot now known by his surname Hsieh.

Dr. Shaun Narine, a professor of international relations and political science at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada, notes that “just because Japan, South Korea, and Australia are sort of suggesting that they wouldn’t mind having a NATO presence, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the states in the region want NATO there.”

“When you look at how Southeast Asia has been responding overall to the question of growing antagonism between the United States and the West and China, the Southeast Asian countries do not want to choose between the US and China. They want a peaceful region. They want a region where business opportunities and economic opportunities are what drives regional interaction,” the professor told Sputnik.

“So while they have been more circumspect with the emergence of things like AUKUS and the whole QUAD idea, I haven’t seen any indication that the Southeast Asian countries are open to the idea of NATO being present. The other thing about it is that NATO is a collection of Western powers. All of them, every single country that’s ever been a colonial power in Asia is a member of NATO. And when you look at the history of colonialism, particularly in Southeast Asia, but also of course in China, you got this historical fact that all of these countries have the experience of being dominated and colonized by European powers,” Dr. Narine added.

The legacy of European colonialism has been a “major force” in defining the region’s sense of history and nationalism, in the professor’s estimation. Accordingly, many regional nations are “very reluctant to have the Western countries come back” in a military way.

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The High Colonial Age 1870-1914

Furthermore, as the scholar noted, NATO’s track record with Global South nations hasn’t exactly been great.

“Outside of Europe…NATO’s activities have been in places like Afghanistan and Africa, particularly its involvement in the Libya intervention in 2011. And when you look at what NATO did in Libya, there’s nobody in Africa who’s going to refer to NATO as a primarily defensive alliance. NATO is seen in Africa as being an example of Western aggression, and Western destabilization in Africa. And in much of the Global South, there’s a similar kind of idea. You know, very few countries in the world have supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the other hand, a lot of countries are at least somewhat sympathetic to the Russian argument that they were concerned about the expansion of NATO,” Narine said.

Western nations have been “on the receiving end” of violence against countries in the Global South for ages.” Since Western military alliances are growing into their region, the expert concluded, “they’re much more careful about how they deal with that question.”

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