15 May 2014, 23:29

Do we need a NATO-like alliance in the Asia Pacific region?

Do we need a NATO-like alliance in the Asia Pacific region?

With five nuclear powers in the region, dynamic economic growth, Asia is becoming a powerhouse of the 21 century. At the same time the increasing political rivalry between the leading powers in the region as well as the US and China may lead to the escalation of tension that could undermine the dynamics of the regional economic development. Host of the Voice of Russia's 'Agree or Disagree', Marina Dzhashi, discusses the probability and necessity of a Nato-like alliance in Asia with Ann Lee, an expert in the US-China relations, and George Koo, the founder of Strategic Alliences.

Part I

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Part II

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Is an Asian NATO possible?

Ann Lee: I think the question needs more refinement. It depends on whether you are comparing the Asia security alliances with the pre-Soviet collapse NATO versus the post-Soviet collapse. Pre-collapse the NATO was largely united on stopping communism form spreading and from the Soviet Union as a threat.

If you look at Asia-Pacific today, alliances between all the different Asian countries with, say, the lead country – Japan – would not be as strong as what it was in the Western Europe against the Soviet Union. This is largely because after the WW II Japan never really apologized for their atrocities. And, therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Asian countries would come to aid Japan, if Japan and China were to engage in armed conflict.

George Koo: There is no common agreement as to who the adversary should be. Furthermore, there is so much economic exchange going on between these countries in Asia. It is unthinkable that they would want to indulge in any conflict, North Korea aside. This whole military confrontation alliance is very much a Western idea. I'm not sure the Asians buy into this kind of preventive confrontation.

How serious is the Chinese threat to the other countries in the region?

George Koo: I don’t see China interested in going to war or setting up military confrontations.

Each member of the NATO has been at least able to contribute something in case of military conflict. They have troops, they have weapons, they have presumably a common fear to fight.

You don’t have that in Asia. Everybody is as much afraid of Japan’s militarization as they are of China. Some countries are probably even more negative about the looming threat of Japan.

So, I think the US is indulging in some wishful thinking that there could be a comparable NATO in the Pacific.

Not so long ago President Obama visited the region. How would you assess it?

Ann Lee: It really was nothing but photo opportunities. He didn’t accomplish much in terms of concluding the trade deal, because it was widely expected that they could make a breakthrough on TPP and that didn’t happen. And without that, there is already noise that other trade deals are going to go forward without the US involved.

We don’t have a collective defense organization for the Asia-Pacific yet, what we do have is NATO. Can we expect it to expand as far as the Asia-Pacific? And if so, how instrumental can its role be there?

Ann Lee: It is already somewhat global in its organization. And it is not clear how it wants to evolve, but I would say that it is turning into more of a crisis response organization as opposed to just pure military.

How effective by the way is it?

Ann Lee: I guess they were helpful in stabilizing what was going on in Bosnia.

George Koo: I do think that NATO directly created the crisis that we have in Ukraine. NATO was moving so aggressively trying to rope Ukraine into its sphere of influence, I think that caused Putin to react and push back.

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