The establishment of cooperation and understanding amongst culturally divergent nations remains paramount to interpreting others’ intentions and sustaining peace.  As China continues its rise onto the international scene as both an economic and military power, it is imperative that communication with established multilateral security alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remain a priority in order to alleviate suspicions and avoid misinterpretations. 

The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center hosted a video conference in order to bring Chinese scholars and NATO officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels together to foster cooperation and further a mutual understanding. This event was moderated by Carnegie-Tsinghua Director Paul Haenle and Tsinghua University’s Professor Shi Zhiqin.

NATO and EU Cooperation in the Future

Since the arrival of the European Union (EU) to the international diplomacy and security scene, the question of how NATO and the EU can cooperate without redundancy and rivalry has arisen.  The Chinese scholars tended to view the existence of the two organizations as unnecessary and repetitive; instead, they favored a single European alliance while NATO officials viewed the two organizations as exclusively separate and both as necessary entities for European security.

  • NATO vs. EU: Several Chinese scholars pointed out the fact that the EU has many military shortfalls and must rely on NATO cooperation in order to maintain security.  However, EU-NATO cooperation beyond 2020 is still unclear, albeit positive. Scholars also commented that the EU is well-equipped with providing civilian crisis management and there have been many successes in the past; monitoring the Georgian-Russian crisis as well as the EU’s operations in Africa are examples of EU success. NATO and the EU’s responses to the current Middle East situation were also inquired about.
  • Separate but Equal: NATO officials responded that NATO and the EU are largely comprised of the same members, although unsettled disputes amongst members and non-members are still present, such as the Turkey-Greece clashes over Cyprus. NATO views the EU as being one of its three strategic partners; the Russian Federation and Ukraine being the other two.  Officials went on to say that both the EU and NATO will continue to monitor the current crisis in the Middle East and will respond as necessary.  

NATO’s Nuclear Alliance and Russia Policy

Russia and the United States have recently signed and ratified the Strategic Arms Reduction II Treaty (START II), which proposes a mutual reduction in their nuclear weapons inventory.  Both the Chinese scholars and NATO officials viewed the ratification as a positive sign between Russia and the U.S. as well as in European and Asian security.

  • Russia and Nuclear Weapons: A Chinese non-proliferation expert remarked that in a post-Cold War environment, nuclear weapons are obsolete.  NATO efforts to move Russian weapons away from EU borders concern the Chinese due to a belief that Russia will simply shift the weapons from Europe to Asia. Acknowledgement was given to the new NATO strategy concerning the use of nuclear weapons; the expert stressed the need for reduction, not relocation.  Questions about NATO’s decision to remain a nuclear alliance as well as its outlook towards Russia were also raised. 
  • A Realistic Nuclear Policy: NATO officials responded that NATO must be realistic in security assessments and will remain in a nuclear alliance as long as nuclear weapons still exist; however, NATO will concurrently continue to pursue the long-term goal of a nuclear-free world.  NATO support of START II was reiterated and it was noted that a downward trend in nuclear weapons is occurring.  NATO does not view Russia as an enemy although there are prevalent disagreements on security issues. However, NATO will continue to focus on establishing a stable relationship with Russia.
  • Asian Situation: NATO officials also inquired about the Chinese view of security issues in South Asia and North Korea. The Chinese scholars responded that North Korean developments  in nuclear and ballistic missile technology was the most pressing issue, while in South Asia political stability was of great concern.

NATO Relevance in the Post-Cold War Era

The Cold War saw the birth of NATO as a deterrent against Soviet aggression, but now that that threat is no longer a concern many have questioned if NATO is still necessary.  However, NATO recently released its new strategic concept in order to adapt to the modern security environment of today’s world.

  • NATO’s Role: Chinese scholars were very interested in the goals and timing of NATO’s strategic concept release, as this is the third chapter in NATO evolution.  Concerns about NATO’s budget were raised due to the military budget reductions of European nations’, as well as concern over NATO becoming a global organization in the near future.  Chinese view NATO as an exclusively European-U.S. organization and wish for a more inclusive global membership. 
  • The Future: NATO officials responded that NATO must adapt to a new strategic environment that emerged after the attacks on the United States in September 2011; the timing of a strategy shift is reflected in ongoing operations in Afghanistan.  NATO must wisely use its annual budget of 2 billion Euros as NATO members reduce defense spending. NATO is still relevant to the European continent as collective security is much cheaper than individual security, and there are still many nations aspiring to join NATO to secure a place in the 21st century.  Officials commented that NATO is a “global organization without having to go global.”