The new NATO 2030 Strategic Concept indicates a disturbing change in the Alliance’s strategic orientation. As a result, provocations towards Moscow, as well as Beijing, are escalating, especially after the former was labelled by NATO as “the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.” Under this context, the Atlantic Alliance urged member states to allocate more resources for military purposes, as well as to increase the rapid reaction forces on its Eastern European front from 40,000 troops to a staggering 300,000. This is in addition to escalations in the South China Sea.
NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, explained that, unlike the previous document of the same title, which was adopted in Lisbon in 2010, there are no longer any guidelines on cooperation with Moscow, not even in the areas of arms control, the fight against terrorism or drug trafficking. Relations with Russia are continuously deteriorating as the West instigates less cooperation and more conflict.
The behaviour of NATO’s main members – the US and the United Kingdom, as well as Germany and France, in Ukraine, but also in the Caucasus and Central Asia, signify that Russia is the most direct threat to Western hegemony despite China’s massive economic rise. Therefore, there is nothing epochal about the positioning on NATO’s eastern borders since it is a logical epilogue of a process that has been ongoing since at least 2014. Arguments can be made though that this process began with the Syrian War in 2011, or perhaps even as early as 2008 with the NATO-instigated Russo-Georgia War.
The change in strategic orientation, projected in the medium term, also concerns China’s relations with the West and Russia. The tightening of relations between China and Russia is contrary to the interests of the Alliance because, according to NATO, “China seeks to undermine the current world order by controlling global logistics and its economy,” hence NATO’s strengthening of relations with its Asia-Pacific partners.
It is also for this reason that the US encouraged the dismantling of the EU-China investment agreement, openly supports protesters in Hong Kong and repeats claims of a Chinese-perpetrated genocide against the Uyghurs, escalates tensions in the South China Sea, and helped dismantle the 17 + 1 format, which in practice can no longer function. This is also in addition to Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei and the establishment of the AUKUS alliance.
For the most part, in NATO’s new strategic orientation, China could arguably be heading towards a similar situation to that of Russia in 2014. For NATO strategists, China’s response to Pelosi’s visit, manifested by military and naval exercises in the South China Sea, is excessive. They are of this view because China exposed how easily Taiwan could be isolated from the outside world, with the US only able to watch on.
NATO is moving very explicitly and in a targeted manner against China. Perhaps such a step was induced or accelerated by Beijing’s refusal to align itself with the West’s anti-Russian sanctions and condemnation of the demilitarisation of Ukraine.
Proceeding with such provocations and escalations is also very risky for NATO though. A NATO-instigated war against China, just as the Alliance left Russia no choice but to demilitarise Ukraine to ensure its own national security, would reshape the world much faster and fundamentally than what has already occurred due to the war in Eastern Europe. The attempted isolation of Russia not only failed, but in fact accelerated the changing of the global geopolitical and economic system away from Western hegemony.
As China is the largest industrial power in today’s world, as well as a massive market for consumer goods and a key investor and creditor in numerous regions, without a stable China, there is no global stability. If the Alliance was not able to achieve its goal in Ukraine, a region where several NATO members directly border Russia too, there is little prospect that it can make any major achievement on the Asian front.
If the Alliance is not capable of coping with a direct confrontation with Russia in Europe, it raises the question on how it will be able to cope with a direct confrontation on two fronts against a potential Russian-Chinese coalition. NATO’s anti-Chinese and anti-Russian strategic commitment, which has been framed until at least 2030, is a dangerous provocation, and not only for the targeted countries. The West’s provocations are a danger to the entire world as it can dramatically affect global stability and the quality of life of everyday citizens, hence why the NATO 2030 Strategic Concept is alarming.