US war preparations: push for NATO to expand into Indo-Pacific region
Written by: (Contributed) on 2 July 2021
If Australia was used to host expanded NATO facilities the country would be placed in the front-line of US-led regional military and security provision and become a large-scale player in a future war with China.
Throughout June a flurry of media releases surrounding the recent high-level diplomatic meetings of the G7 and NATO publicised US military planning to step-up regional military and security provision in the Indo-Pacific.
A number of official media releases actually advocated US-led plans to transform NATO 'from a European to a global security collaboration', with specific interest in the Indo-Pacific. (1) It was noted that 'NATO would bring an established defence network and command structure to Asia, decades of operational experience and military capacity', leaving little to the imagination about future planning for real-war scenarios. (2)
The statements coincided with two further additional media releases from the Australian Defence Department that a war with China was possible and Australia was planning to increase the US troop presence in the Northern Territory. (3)
A statement from the US diplomatic services also high-lighted that 'pre-positioning of US weapons in Australia offered strategic advantages … and that … it just makes sense to forward deploy US war stocks in Australia', drawing Australia ever closer to US-led regional military planning. (4)
In recent times there has also been a dramatic increase in western military activity in the Indo-Pacific. While most European countries have historically had involvement in US-led regional military exercises, from a standpoint of being previous colonial powers and possessing present-day neo-colonial ambitions, the Indo-Pacific has always been regarded differently. The region is vast and composed of thousands of small islands: 'policing' type action has been extremely difficult. The many smaller island countries have historically, nevertheless, existed under US-led tutelage and relied upon Australia and Japan as major regional hubs for 'US interests' although geographical distances remain problematic with their involvement in military and security provision.
Faced with the rapid rise of China, however, the US appears to be now panicking as their traditional hegemonic position across the vast region has entered into competition with China. In fact, as early as 2018, a US Congressional Commission found 'the US is no longer clearly superior to the threats it faces around the world and that it would struggle to win wars against China or Russia'. (5)
At the recent G7 summit a separate trilateral meeting took place between US President Biden, British PM Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison, who subsequently issued an official diplomatic statement that they had 'discussed a number of mutual concerns, including the Indo-Pacific region'. (6)
The three countries form part of the elite 5-Eyes intelligence-sharing network; a major player inside NATO, with nineteen members of the 54 British Commonwealth countries in Asia and the Pacific. It is, therefore, hardly surprising to find the three countries agreed 'that the strategic context in the Indo-Pacific was changing and that there was a strong rationale for deepening co-operation between the three governments'. (7)
The move would appear set to counter geo-strategic problems experienced by the US in the region: many countries with strong relations with China have been reluctant to take sides between the US and China; they have too much to lose. The US has, therefore, been confronted with a credible challenge to their existing military and other agreements and alliances.
Expanding NATO would appear the favoured realistic option for the US, Britain and Australia; they appear set to foist the European-based structure upon the Indo-Pacific in due course, as a fall-back position to already existing US-led military and security provision.
Two further factors have to be taken into consideration.
A recent defence publication announced Australia was in a prime position as part of the US present global force posture review to work even more closely with the Pentagon and that discussions had already taken place about considering the establishment of a new US fleet headquarters in the Indian Ocean, with the specific reference to siting the facility at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia. It was, furthermore, noted that 'while the South Pacific will remain vital to Australia's national security … the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia far out-rank the South Pacific in every key measure of importance'. (8)
The announcement coincided with a report from a leading Canberra government advisory organisation, the Lowy Institute, that 'Australia is well positioned to become a crucial hub for an enlarged NATO'. (9) The matter would also appear to have been discussed in Canberra as it was officially acknowledged that the Morrison government have 'enthusiastically endorsed' such a proposal. (10)
The announcement that Australia had officially joined the US Maritime Safety and Security Information System (MSSIS), based with the US 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy, which in turn, is part of NATO Forces Europe, would appear to signify Australia had established near real-time communications inside NATO. While ostensibly concerned with monitoring and tracking suspicious maritime vessels, the MSSIS is a sophisticated signals satellite facility linking 75 countries with the US military. (11)
In conclusion, moves appear well under-way to expand NATO into the Indo-Pacific region with active support from the present Morrison Coalition government: Australia has been drawn even closer to Pentagon regional military planning as a target and as an active participant for real-war scenarios across the wider region should they take place.
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1. Crucial hub for NATO in Asia, Australian, 15 June 2021; and, Forget narrative of decline, this hostile bear still has teeth, Australian, 15 June 2021.
2. Ibid, Crucial hub for NATO, Australian, 15 June 2021.
3. 'We must get real on possible China war', Australian, 26 April 2021; and, Dutton wants to lift number of US marines, Australian, 11 June 2021.
4. US eyes Top End military build-up to combat China threat, Australian, 26 May 2021.
5. Study: US no longer dominant power in the Pacific, Paul D. Shinkman, Information Clearing House, 22 August 2019.
6. Military exercises 'will turn down the heat', The Weekend Australian, 19-20 June 2021.
8. Minister must drive force posture review, WA Defence Supplement, The Weekend Australian, 22-23 May 2021.
9. Crucial hub, op.cit., Australian, 15 June 2021.
11. US satellite deal boosts border security, Australian, 29 June 2021.
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