Monday 20 Aug 2018 | 20:57 | SYDNEY
Monday 20 Aug 2018 | 20:57 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Australia and NATO

26 November 2010 10:05

Peter Layton writes:

A thoughtful piece by Benjamin Schreer on NATO's new Strategic Concept and the alliance's steadily growing global involvement. Some conflate NATO with the EU in their rush to dismiss the alliance's future or any contribution it could make to Australian security. There are several reasons why this might be premature.

NATO includes the US and Canada, both Pacific nations, and of course France, one of Australia's closest neighbors in New Caledonia. Obviously, these nations have strong continuing interests across the Pacific, including in a territorial sense. Their interests will continue to help shape NATO's perspectives.

The alliance's wording is much stronger than the wording of the ANZUS treaty and an attack on any nation could trigger an alliance response. This was evident in the response to the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 that saw NATO forces deployed well out of the treaty's apparent area of interest into Afghanistan. This precedent indicates that NATO's gaze may be further than some thought during the Cold War and the era of decolonisation. Or at least the uncertainty of a NATO response may help to deter precipitate hostile actions.

Since 2000, the US has been steadily pushing many of its alliance partners into taking a more global role. Australia is one of those but NATO is another target of this US desire. It is not by accident that we found ourselves with the Dutch in Oruzgan province — a situation almost unthinkable a decade before. The US is continuing to exert pressure on its alliance partners to think and act globally, and budgetary concerns are likely to now reinforce American strategic interests in this direction.

Lastly, a deepening linkage between NATO and Russia as sought in the new NATO Strategic Concept has the potential over time to significantly change Pacific security dynamics. Some advocate Russia becoming a NATO member and a moment's reflection of the geostrategic implications of moving NATO's eastern security border to Vladivostok indicates that this could be a real game changer.

I agree with Benjamin; Australia in a small US-led alliance should think clearly about its linkages to another, albeit much larger, US-led alliance.