Five months ago, in a column called “The Muscles Return,” I said that “the Western world is reacting with growing force” to the threat to democracy posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. .
After last month’s annual NATO summit in Madrid, The New York Times wrote that the West had emerged with “a muscular new strategic vision, demonstrating renewed resolve” to protect democracy on the continent.
NATO leaders approved a sharp increase in troop deployments on Europe’s eastern flank facing Russia, increased assistance to Ukraine in its defense against the invasion of Moscow and a new strategic concept that explicitly names Russia as the “most significant and direct threat” to the alliance. Moreover, for the first time, NATO has called China a “strategic challenge”. The Western world has now abandoned the post-Cold War complacency that saw Russia as a “potential ally” and China as an increasingly democratic country thanks to its integration into the globalized world economy. The fundamental global reality now is democracy versus autocracy, as US President Joe Biden said shortly after taking office.
So now we’re going to see Cold War levels of military deployments across Europe and “the greatest increase in NATO defences.” The number of high-readiness alliance troops will increase from 40,000 to 300,000. The United States will dramatically increase its military deployments “to defend every inch of allied territory,” Biden said. In addition to the 120,000 American troops currently stationed in Europe, it will support NATO by strengthening its first line of defense closer to the Russian border.
Washington will establish a permanent headquarters for the US Fifth Corps in Poland, send 5,000 more troops to Romania and increase deployments to the Baltic states. The United States will reinforce the defense of Europe with two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets in Britain, air defense systems in Italy and Germany and six American naval destroyers in Spain. Other NATO countries are also mobilizing. Britain will now deploy 2,000 troops to the Baltics.
And the very significant military aid to Ukraine continues. The European Union recently approved a $509 million arms package for Kyiv. In addition to the huge military support already provided, the United States is now sending additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (Himars), described as “devastating” and “the indispensable weapon” for Ukraine in this war. New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman cites military analysts’ assessments that Russia has already suffered, at a minimum, “the staggering loss of 15,000 troops and probably double that number wounded.” . More than 1,000 Russian tanks and artillery pieces were reduced to scrap. Indeed, last week the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence service, Richard Moore, said Russia was “on the verge of running out of steam, would have difficulty providing troops and other logistical challenges in the coming weeks, giving opportunities to Ukrainians”.
There is another most significant development. NATO is embraced by the Asia-Pacific nations — Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — whose leaders attended the Madrid meeting. These allies are very concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, in particular, China’s growing aggression in their region. Their unprecedented participation in a NATO summit resulted in a cooperation agreement with the alliance on cyber defense and maritime security. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are “inseparable”, that Asia-Pacific partners should “regularly participate in NATO summits”; and the new South Korean President, Yoon Suk-yeol, sees “the cooperative relationship between South Korea and NATO” becoming “a cornerstone of solidarity”.
Behind this eagerness to strengthen ties with NATO is the need for Asian nations to diversify their security postures and reduce their dependence solely on the United States – a dependence undermined by the policy “America first” by Donald Trump who talked about withdrawing American troops from Japan and South Korea. . They are pursuing “several options to enhance deterrence.” Defense expert Yoshikazu Hirose said: “It would complicate the calculations for China if Beijing had to think, not only about the alliance with the United States, but also about the 30 NATO members.”
Indeed, Washington itself had been pushing for the four Asia/Pacific countries to attend the NATO summit, as part of Biden’s strategy of building and expanding coalitions of like-minded allies. ideas for countering the global threat to democracy posed by China and Russia. On the sidelines of the summit, the United States, Japan and South Korea held their first trilateral meeting in five years. And even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden had revitalized the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) involving the United States, Japan, Australia and India for free and open access to the ‘Indo-Pacific, and had created Aukus with the US, UK and Australia to help Canberra. acquire nuclear-powered submarines to deal with Beijing. These multilateral security agreements are supported by existing bilateral defense pacts, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and Japan.
The US President said: “We face a world of growing rivalry with China, Russia and other authoritarian states.” To meet the challenge, the strategy is “integrated deterrence”, the building of allied capabilities and the integration of friends and allies in combat readiness through the “multiplication of forces”, the growth of multilateral military alliances in the democratic world. It is absolutely necessary to face the new global reality.