The US’ obsessive compulsion to continuously reassert its global hegemony persists unabated. It now perceives newer, stronger, multi­domain and multidimensional se­curity threats and challenges to its pre-eminent global po­sition. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the mercurial rise of China have caused it to reassess its global policies and strategies, particularly for Eu­rope and the Indo-Pacific.

NATO is providing the organisational structure to devise, formulate and execute the new strategic concepts to that end.

NATO’s Strategic Concept 2022 thus reiterates its intent “to ensure the col­lective defence of its members through a 360-degree approach comprising three core tasks—deterrence and de­fence, crisis prevention and manage­ment and cooperative security”. Its key aspects are based upon the perception that Euro-Atlantic security is being un­dermined by strategic competition and pervasive instability. It considers the strategic environment in the Euro-At­lantic area as destabilised and the Rus­sian Federation’s “brutal aggression” against Ukraine violative of the norms and principles that contribute to a sta­ble European security order.

It further reckons China’s stated “am­bitions and coercive policies” as sys­temic challenges to its interests, Euro-Atlantic and global security and values. It fears that China is employing a broad range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power. It feels that China seeks to control key technological and in­dustrial sectors, critical infrastructure, strategic materials and supply chains. It thinks that China is subverting the rules-based international order includ­ing in the space, cyber and maritime do­mains. Most importantly, it believes the Sino-Russian strategic partnership to be at the forefront of an authoritarian pushback against the rules-based inter­national order. Cyberspace; emerging and disruptive technologies; the ero­sion of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architectures; and the security implications of climate change are the other threats that NATO per­ceives for itself.

The Sino-Russia Combine thus emerg­es distinctly as the major threat per­ceived by NATO. It has already expand­ed aggressively into Eastern Europe, subsumed the erstwhile neutral states of Sweden and Finland and now literal­ly sits on the Russian border. Crucially, it is increasingly bringing China into its crosshairs, too. Is NATO then undergo­ing a basic paradigm shift; graduating from a Euro-Atlantic regional alliance/organisation into one with global di­mensions, ambitions and pretensions? Will it now acquire a global avatar and a wider non-European, say Asian mem­bership as well?

NATO has essentially been primed to deter the erstwhile USSR/Russia, from threatening its core interests. Russia however moved quite imperiously, dis­dainfully and remorselessly into Geor­gia, Crimea and Ukraine to secure its vi­tal national interests. The US-led West/NATO could pay no more than vocifer­ous lip service to condemn its actions.

In the current Ukraine war, the US is applying its well-known Strategy of Off-shore Balancing, yet again. It has put Ukraine on the front lines against Rus­sia, mustered a rather nonplussed, con­fused and timid Europe to support and back it while it stays “off-shore” and re­inforces European and Ukrainian war efforts. It has supplied Ukraine with a measured, well calculated albeit limited economic and military capacity to keep prolonging the war.

The intention is ostensibly to weak­en, defeat and humiliate Russia rather than craft an unlikely Ukrainian victory. It will be a Pyrrhic victory, if at all, for the Europeans in general and the Ukrai­nians in particular.

If NATO is to acquire an Asian avatar (essentially against China) as well, then several geopolitical and geostrategic is­sues will have to be considered. What will NATO-in-Asia look like? Will it act independently in its current form, or build itself up around the already for­ward placed groupings like the QUAD, AUKUS, I2U2 etc and/or further cre­ate Coalitions of the Willing and then move as it did in the GMER, North Af­rica and Afghanistan, earlier on. Or will it be a combination of all these options? Is the concurrence of all NATO/Coali­tion members against China presup­posed? Do they not have their national interests to look after; their indepen­dent bilateral relationships and eco­nomic inter-dependencies with China? Will they willingly place their nation­al interests subservient to US diktat, as has happened to Germany, France and most of Western Europe in this Ukrai­nian war? Furthermore, do the mem­bers of NATO individually have the ca­pacity to venture into distant theatres of war like the Indo-Pacific, the South Pacific, GMER, SCAR etc?

All members of NATO/Coalitions (nu­clear and non-nuclear weapon states) could thus possibly become legiti­mate targets in a potentially fast evolv­ing and deteriorating nuclear environ­ment. Will these countries be willing to take the risk?

NATO has both non-kinetic and kinet­ic options in Asia. In the non-kinetic do­main, it could just continue projecting overwhelming diplomatic, military and economic power and threaten isolation, the disruption of supply chains, SLOCs etc to deter and/or coerce China into sub­mission. It could further exploit the tech­nological advances in AI, cyber, space, hypersonic weapon systems and the elec­tromagnetic spectrums to dominate and overwhelm it. These endeavours have re­mained unproductive thus far.

The recent multidimensional sanc­tions/embargoes against Russia have failed and are unlikely to succeed against China too. In this largely interwoven global village, economic and trade em­bargoes, particularly in China’s case, are likely to have deleterious effects for both sides—just like the rebounding oil, gas, food grains, fertilisers, etc crises now be­setting Europe and the world!

The US might be constrained to con­duct kinetic operations if its current co­ercive, non-kinetic endeavours fail. So, how will it respond if, hypothetically speaking, Taiwan becomes or is made to become the flashpoint? The US, as op­posed to NATO, is obliged to come to its rescue. Will the US somehow apply the Strategy of Off-shore balancing in the In­do-Pacific too? Taiwan could be the new Ukraine and India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and others in NATO/the Coali­tions, the new Europe! The most conse­quential unknown, however, will be the response of all its allies; even if it bites the bullet itself and leads the onslaught!

Any kinetic war between two of the world’s mightiest military-nuclear-missile powers, technological giants and economic behemoths will unleash an unmitigated Armageddon on the en­tire world!

Sanity must prevail. NATO must stay where it belongs.

Imran Malik

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im