May 27, 2022
HONG KONG – Reckless expansion makes volatile world more dangerous, experts say
NATO’s constant expansion, a trend driven by the United States with Finland and Sweden as the latest nations seeking to join the military alliance, is making the world more volatile and dangerous, experts say.
With the trans-Atlantic alliance signaling that it also aims to extend its influence and reach into Asia, countries in the region should be on guard and resist any enlargement of the Cold War-era relic, they said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that Finland and Sweden had officially applied to join the US-led Western alliance. The historically nonaligned Nordic countries opted for NATO amid security concerns in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute, a think tank in Islamabad, said: “The US has fanned the fire when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict”.
Bringing Finland and Sweden into NATO marks a “departure from the commitment made by James Baker, then secretary of state of the US, to (former Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev, that NATO will not expand eastward”, he said.
The fact that Russia’s close neighbors are now joining NATO shows that the legitimate concerns of Russia are not being addressed, Sayed said.
The situation in Europe is being “compounded and worsened”, and the region will become more unstable and more prone to conflicts, he said.
Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, said the moves by Finland and Sweden reflect the continuous push by NATO to enlarge its membership, particularly among countries on Russia’s periphery.
“I think this obviously should be a source of concern for both China and Russia,” Gul said.
Tentacles in Asia
Sayed noted that the NATO 2030 policy document, which was published in November 2020, listed China and Russia as a challenge and identified them as NATO adversaries, even though China is not even in the North Atlantic region where the bloc is supposed to be based.
“So obviously NATO plans to (extend) its tentacles to Asia where China is located, to contain and confront Asia, as per its own NATO 2030 document,” he said.
According to NATO’s website, the organization has been forging closer relations with four partners in the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
An article published on the website last year said: “Ensuring NATO adopts a global approach is central to the NATO 2030 agenda. NATO’s relations with the four Asia-Pacific partners have a key role to play in this.”
On May 5, the ROK’s state intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service, said it had joined NATO’s cyber defense group, becoming the group’s first Asian member.
The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, set up in 2008, is a think tank based in Tallinn, Estonia, that claims to support member nations and NATO with expertise in “cyber defense research, training and exercises”.
On April 7, for the first time, representatives of the ROK and Japan attended in Brussels a NATO meeting at the level of foreign ministers.
Karori Singh, a former director and emeritus fellow of the South Asia Studies Centre at India’s University of Rajasthan, said the expansion plans of NATO are proving counterproductive. “It will further determine the deteriorating global situation,” Singh said.
Further expansion of NATO, coupled with the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US), is generating more distrust and uncertainty around the world, Singh said. The academic also cited AUKUS, a security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, as another cause for concern.