While much of the conversation at this week’s NATO summit will be focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the presence of NATO partners Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand “is a testament to … [NATO’s] interest in the Indo-Pacific and the focus on the challenges that China poses for the alliance,” says USIP’s Mirna Galic.

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.


Laura Coates: Let's talk now to Mirna Gallic, who is a China and East Asia Senior Analyst for the United States Institute of Peace. She joins us now to talk about this upcoming summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the NATO relations with the Indo-Pacific partners, specifically, the Indo-Pacific nations; Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan will be attending the NATO Summit for a second year in a row. Question, why does that matter right now so much to a developing NATO Indo-Pacific relationship? Mirna welcome, and good morning. How are you?

Mirna Galic: Good morning. I'm great. Thanks, Laura.

Laura Coates: I'm glad you're joining us, orient the conversation for us, because we've been hearing a lot about the idea of Ukraine wanting to be a member, about Sweden and the relationship and roadblocks with Hungary and Turkey. But we haven't heard a lot about the Indo-Pacific nations and what role their attendance at the summit will actually play going forward. Why is it so important?

Mirna Galic: So, as you mentioned, this is the second year in a row that the leaders of these four countries will be joining a NATO summit. Last year at Madrid was the first and their attendance is really important for a number of reasons. First, all four of these countries are strong supporters of Ukraine. And their being there at a NATO meeting that will certainly be focused in large part on Ukraine and the war there is a testament to the fact that it's not only within Europe and the Euro-Atlantic that there is opposition to Russia's actions, but also from very important partners in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. In addition, NATO has had an increasing focus on security in the Indo-Pacific and how that might impact security in the Euro-Atlantic for a number of years now. And the presence of these partners is a testament to the notion that NATO is continuing to pay attention to what's happening in the Indo-Pacific and working with these partners there, even though a lot of its current focus is being taken up by Russia.

Laura Coates: It's fascinating to think about the history of NATO relations with these countries, as you've articulated and thinking about the shared interest of NATO. And one of the, you know, obviously the focus of some of the NATO allies and NATO member countries that are in Europe that are in close proximity to Russia, their focus is perhaps very self-invested and interested for obvious reasons based on their proximity. But for the other nations you describe, looking at is the focus and the power dynamic equally as impactful, even though it's a little bit more distant.

Mirna Galic: You mean of the Indo-Pacific? Yeah. So, at the summit last year, NATO released a new strategic concept, which is the tenure planning document that it has, and the original NATO strategic concept that was updated, which is from 2010, was focused only on Russia. And this new strategic concept has at least an equal focus on China. So regardless of whether NATO is currently sort of busy with the problems that Russia is causing, the alliance as a whole, both the countries that are focused more on Russia, and the countries that are focused more globally, have agreed to boilerplate baseline language, noting the challenges that China poses. So again, even though the alliances' business is currently taken up a lot with Russia's war in Ukraine, the interest in the Indo-Pacific and the focus on the challenges that China poses for the Alliance remains, regardless of that.

Laura Coates: Yes. So, what do you expect to see at Vilnius? I mean, are we talking some side meetings? Will there be possible a NATO liaison office in other countries? What do we expect to happen at this particular summit with their attendance?

Mirna Galic: So, on the 12th, which is the second day of the summit, the leaders of these four nations will join the North Atlantic Council leaders in a joint meeting with partners and that will be sort of the main event that these partners will attend. At the summit last year, the four countries themselves had a side meeting with just the leaders of those four countries to discuss how they can better cooperate with NATO. And I expect that that will happen again, barring any unforeseen sort of scheduling issues among the four leaders. And in terms of this liaison office that has been proposed for Japan. I think, just a couple of days ago, France once again reiterated its strong opposition to a liaison office I think this liaison office would be quite useful actually. One of the things that these countries that are partners of NATO have faced that's an obstacle is that they're so far away from Europe that, it's difficult to even coordinate because of time differences and things like this. And also, you know, NATO's messaging to publics in their countries isn't very well coordinated. So, the liaison office that has been proposed to be opened in Tokyo would kind of help with these kinds of basic things, as well as helped these partners to work on implementing the partnership documents that they're currently updating with NATO. So, I think the partnership office, or the liaison office would be really useful. France tends to disagree. So, we'll see where that comes up. But I think it's currently still under discussion, and I don't really expect any announcements on it at the summit itself.

Laura Coates: Why does France disagree?

Mirna Galic: I think President Macron has given a couple of reasons. One is that he believes that the alliance shouldn't have any kind of physical presence outside of its sort of geographic area of responsibility, which is the Euro-Atlantic. And he's also mentioned that he doesn't want to upset China, which is not happy about NATO's partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific. You know, I think those are his reasons and, you know, other allies in the Alliance have reasons that they think that the liaison office would be useful. So, we'll have to see where the allies come out on this question.

Laura Coates: Really interesting to hear your perspective and give us a bit of a preview of what to expect coming up. Mirna Gallic, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

Mirna Galic: Thanks.

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