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The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), right, sail in formation with 16 other ships from the U.S. Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fly overhead in formation during Keen Sword 2019.

U.S. Navy photo / SPC Kaila V. Peters

Paper

Asia Whole and Free? Assessing the Viability and Practicality of a Pacific NATO

    Author:
  • Aaron Bartnick
| March 2020

This report will address four questions in the Pacific NATO debate. First, is there a historical precedent for a Pacific NATO? This report does find a precedent in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), though it was largely unsuccessful due to its lack of regional adoption, weak mutual defense provisions, and ultimately became tainted by the Vietnam War.

Second, would such an alliance be necessary given the plethora of existing multilateral partnerships in the region? While there is a broad multilateral landscape in the Indo-Pacific, there is currently no agreement that combines both the wide reach and deep obligations of a hypothetical Pacific NATO. However, the Quad and RIMPAC do bring together many of the key Indo-Pacific powers and serve as an important foundation for U.S.-oriented multilateral regional security.

Third, how could such an alliance be structured? This report examines three options: expanding NATO’s mandate beyond Europe, building on its Enhanced Opportunity Partner (EOP) program, and creating a new alliance system. It also uses the case of Montenegro’s NATO accession to generate a broad set of criteria for future membership.

And fourth, how would Indo-Pacific nations, including China, respond to such an alliance? This would be exceedingly difficult. China has significant economic leverage over even our closest allies, like Australia and Japan.

Intractable internal disputes abound, particularly between South Korea and Japan and four nations—Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam—with competing claims in the South China Sea. Two of the United States’ most important partners in the region, India and Singapore, have a longstanding aversion to exactly this type of alliance system. And for newer partners, like Malaysia and Indonesia, the value proposition is even less clear. The Chinese are likely to respond to any attempts at a multilateral military alliance in its backyard with a whole-of-government effort to stop it. If that alliance includes Taiwan, it could result in even more aggressive action.

A U.S. Marine carries cold weather equipment as he begins to march across the Icelandic terrain in preparation for NATO’s Trident Juncture 2018 exercise, October 19, 2018. 

NATO Photo

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis

| February 2019

At 70, NATO remains the single most important contributor to security, stability and peace in Europe and North America. NATO allies, however, are confronting daunting and complex challenges that are testing both their purpose and unity. NATO’s leaders need to act decisively in 2019 to meet these tests and heal the widening divisions within the Alliance before it is too late.

(MENARA)

(MENARA)

Paper

The Implications of the Syrian War For New Regional Orders

| Sep. 12, 2018

This paper argues that the impact of the eight-year war in Syria will reverberate across the region for years to come, and explores, in particular, four noteworthy legacies. First, it examines the series of interventions in Syria by regional and foreign powers (including Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that reconfigured the role of such powers across the region. Second, it reveals the emergence of two opposing alliances in the region, each comprising Arab states, regional Arab and non-Arab powers, global powers and local nonstate actors. These or similar alliances may well reappear in other Middle Eastern conflicts. Third, it analyses the striking number and variety of foreign forces that either directly fought in Syria or indirectly supported warring factions. Since 2012, these forces have included at least twenty states and major non-state players, alongside hundreds of smaller tribal, Islamist and secular rebel and pro-Assad groups. Finally, the paper suggests that the international community’s weak response to the untold war crimes on both sides, and its apparent de facto acceptance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s incumbency, portend continuing regional authoritarian and violent political systems for the foreseeable future.

Report

Challenges to U.S. Global Leadership

In a Harvard Kennedy School IDEASpHERE session titled "Challenges to US Global Leadership," Graham Allison, Nicholas Burns, David Gergen, David Ignatius, and Meghan O’Sullivan discussed challenges as well as opportunities facing the United States. Burns moderated the session.

Challenges include the rise of China and the future of the U.S.-China relationship, the crises taking place around the world, and the reputation of the U.S. worldwide. An unexpected opportunity is the increase in available energy sources in the United States.