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NATO Chief Enters Asian Game of Thrones

Australia has become a popular partner in Asia’s Game of Thrones. Both China and the United States have courted it in the past few months, with varying success. China has highlighted its own economic importance as a major trade partner, while the U.S. has strengthened military cooperation both in Afghanistan and at new American bases in Australia.

Now NATO (remember, it’s the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) wants to get in on the dance. As the Atlantic Council’s NATOSource blog reports, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen will travel far from NATO’s traditional arena, all the way to Australia, next week to discuss the role of Australia’s 1,300 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. (Rasmussen’s press release announcing the trip can be found here). NATO’s involvement in the Pacific goes beyond Australia, too. In Brussels, New Zealand recently signed an agreement of partnership that improves cooperation on terror prevention, military training, and intelligence, among other things.

It goes without saying that Australia (and to a lesser extent New Zealand) will play a major role in the Game of Thrones currently unfolding in Asia and the Pacific. But NATO’s presence is an intriguing development. Australia’s economy relies in no small part upon trade with China, but the benefits of strong ties with NATO are attractive. Rasmussen’s visit suggests that the partnership is growing to be about something more than just tactical collaboration in Afghanistan.

We aren’t expecting any moves to enlarge NATO to include countries in the South Pacific, but an increased NATO interest in Asia makes sense. Many European countries worry that China and India don’t pay them much attention. At the moment, the EU is too absorbed in its internal problems to have much impact or wield much clout in Asia; NATO is militarily engaged in Central Asia and diplomatic and mil-mil ties in the rest of Asia also make sense.

From a US point of view, the interoperability of US and NATO forces, imperfect as it may be, is an important achievement. The US may not be trying to build a NATO style alliance in Asia, but using some of the lessons learned and best practices developed by decades of intensive mil-mil alliance cooperation to help members of the emerging Asian entent work more closely together makes sense.

So far, the reaction from China has been muted. That might change, and as Via Meadia commented recently, look for quiet Chinese retaliation—not necessarily in the military arena, but with diplomatic and economic tools.

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  • Luke Lea

    Off topic, I suppose, but it is remarkable how different Americans and Chinese are in their sense of shared social responsibility. The excerpt below from the first of Peter Hessler’s books about China, “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze.” I’ve a feeling you learn more about Chinese society reading Hessler than actually going there. Maybe Mead would disagree. Anyway,

  • Brendan Doran

    Rather Jaunty, isn’t it. Except the Threat of War is what Military Alliances are about.

    In the last century we fought 3 wars in the Pacific, one was bought to a completely satisfactory conclusion after a supreme total effort, still total victory would probably not have been achieved without using nuclear weapons. Storming Iwo Jima and Okinawa was effort enough. The Home Islands? Really?

    And in all three the combat was merciless. Recently there was a bit of ruffled Liberal feathers about Marines pissing on Taliban.

    I guess none, none of you had relatives or older figures who fought in any of those wars who were candid with you.

    Our elites, media and academy lack the stomach for war. Best to avoid situations that make it more likely.

  • Crocodile Chuck

    But NATO’s presence is an intriguing development. Australia’s economy relies in no small part upon trade with China, but the benefits of strong ties with NATO are attractive”

    For whom? Not Australia.

    NATO is an anachronism, and has been searching for a mission for two decades. Time to take it out behind the barn with an axe.

  • J R Yankovic

    “You may say I’m a dreamer . . .” – comment 5

    And funny, again (sorry to be a broken record, but this continues to fascinate me), how bold we were – and in many quarters were advised to be – about provoking the Russians in the ’80s. And how painfully leery we’re being counseled to be, in some quarters, about provoking the Chinese today. Almost as if there was something understood deep down – so deep there might be some reluctance to acknowledge it even to ourselves? – about the different properties of each country’s trigger-finger, and REAL attitudes towards brinksmanship and war . . .

  • Brendan Doran

    The Koreans humiliated us in 1950 then were reversed. The Chinese inflicted major punishment on us and reversed us to status quo antebellum. The North Vietnamese Infantry were excellent and tiny North Vietnam inflicted large casualties on us and won by outlasting us.

    Now they *do not* have the Red Armies they had – the Chinese had been fighting since the 30s and so had the Vietnamese. But let’s not forget History.

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