NATO – Western colonial shadow looms over Asia againApr 14, 2022
Making Australia an instrument of US/NATO in pursuit of objectives so consciously eschewed by our near neighbours will ultimately undermine both the security and prosperity of Australia.
At a press conference on 8 April 2022, in the context of a meeting of Foreign Ministers of NATO and allies (including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan), NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg announced that NATO heads of state and government would approve a new Strategic Concept, to formalise extending NATO’s reach into the Asia/Pacific region, with the explicit aim of countering “China’s growing influence and coercive policies”.
Beside increased cooperation in cyber, new technology and countering disinformation (particularly ironic in the light of the relentless Western barrage of disinformation in relation to both Russia and China), NATO and its Asia/Pacific allies would “work more closely together in…maritime security”.
This announcement directly contradicts President Biden’s reassurance to President Xi Jinping on 18 March that the US “does not seek a new Cold War with China” and that ”the revitalisation of its alliances is not targeted at China”.
It reinforces Xi’s complaint that “people on the US side have not acted on President Biden’s positive statements. The US has misperceived and miscalculated China’s strategic intentions”.
China’s intention, reiterated in almost every foreign policy statement, is to work within the UN system to strengthen it and make it fairer for developing countries. The US sees this as undermining the “rules based order” devised by, and for the benefit of the US and its allies.
One such ally is Australia, which perceives its well-being as inextricably tied to this order, particularly the US dominated system of global financial controls, which it increasingly weaponises through the imposition of sanctions.
The US and NATO characterise China’s aim as a sign of its “aggression”, whilst they are unable to cite any actual instance of current or historic military aggression by China, in contrast to the many wars launched by the US in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Stoltenberg decried China’s refusal to take the West’s side in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an indication of China’s seeking to deny the right of other countries to “choose their own path”. This contrasts with Australia’s attempts to prevent the Solomon Islands from choosing its own path in relation to port development collaboration with China.
He made no acknowledgement of China’s insistence on maintaining a policy of neutrality and non-interference, which China has said would enable it to be an impartial mediator in possible peace negotiations.
He did not make a similar criticism of India, which has firmly maintained neutrality with regard to the war, whilst continuing beneficial economic, financial and even armament collaboration with Russia.
India, through its signature of the charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (to which Russia is also a signatory) has undertaken obligations for security cooperation with China, within the context of non-interference and respect for territorial integrity and sovereign borders.
Stoltenberg’s announcement is unlikely to have been received with enthusiasm in Asian capitals, where the bitter experience of Western colonial domination is still within living memory.
Apart from Japan and Singapore, Asian countries (along with the rest of the developing world) have refrained from sanctioning Russia and have avoided expressions of hostility towards China. They have instead opted for collaboration with China, especially on infrastructure development under its Belt and Road initiative (BRI).
Australia’s collaboration in NATO’s power projection into the Asia/Pacific region will further alienate it from its closest neighbours. ASEAN renewed its Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China in November last year and each of its member countries has reaffirmed its willingness to cooperate with China.
Most of South East Asia expressed misgivings about AUKUS undermining regional security and provoking a potential arms race. NATO’s characterisation of AUKUS as a key instrument for the intensification of NATO’s Asia/Pacific involvement, will have reinforced these concerns and increased their distrust of Australia as seeking to enlist outside power to increase its weight in the region.
As far back as July 1971, Foreign Affairs Policy Planning Paper QP11/71 argued that Australia “shall need now more than ever to formulate independent policies, based on Australian national interests and those of our near neighbours”. Making Australia an instrument of US/NATO in pursuit of objectives so consciously eschewed by our near neighbours will ultimately undermine both the security and prosperity of Australia.
Hitherto, New Zealand had avoided adopting Australia’s hostile policy towards China. Its apparent about-face, by attending the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting and supporting NATO’s push into the Asia/Pacific, drew a stinging rebuke from the former Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Foreign Minister, Matt Robson:
‘If we are to adhere to the principles enshrined in the hard won 1987 Nuclear Free Zone Arms Control and Disarmament Act, we should withdraw from the partnership with nuclear-armed Nato and its aggressive war plans, and join, with clean hands, and return to the independent foreign policy that I was proud as a minister to promote.’
His admonition is one that Australia would do well to heed.