By Jim Hayes
NATO has stepped up its war on China at this week’s meeting in Madrid. There may not be a plan to invade with guns blazing but there has been a definite ideological tilt towards and aggressive posture. There is talk about challenges and threats. Yet no one has been able to show China poses a military threat. This is the face of the new cold war.
Furthermore, the undisputed dominant power in NATO is the United States, which turns the alliance into a tool for its own geopolitical ambitions above all else.
Even stronger language was used to describe Russia. There is the war in Ukraine. But this is mostly a border fight and proxy war between west and east Ukraine since 2014. The west has been involved all along, not only Russia.
The point is that Russia doesn’t have a military presence further afield and across the planet’s oceans. In contrast, the major western powers, the United States and Britain, with their handful of partners in arms, spread their guns across the planet and are constantly at war.
Despite the tough sounding words, the alliance remains somewhat wobbly. For instance, Europe’s two biggest powers, Germany and France, remain hesitant and wary of the potential economic impact on them. It may be far more difficult to transform the words into practical measures.
A military threat is not the issue. NATO’s move is strategic. The problem is a strengthening relationship between China and Russia. Not in terms of a military threat but a growth in trade. China is seen as an economic rival threatening western supremacy in the global economy and putting up barriers to this growth is the favoured option for now.
It also goes deeper than this. Recent years have seen the terms “systemic competitor” and “reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order” have been used.
Sadly, the Australian government is continuing to follow this direction, obediently and slavishly pursued by the late Morrison government as a fan of NATO and western domination.
A systemic competitor means a nation that poses a threat to a global capitalist and neoliberalism driven, giant private corporation dominated economic order. The threat to the rules-based order is finding alternatives to the above and the global institutions and practices that have ensured the benefit to the dominant powers and imposed the cost on the rest of the world.
NATO’s strategy is to maintain western economic superiority and preparing to use military means to enforce this.
Consequently, the plan is to extend NATO presence in Eastern Europe, towards creating a physical buffer between Russia and China, and to use operating centres there as staging points for missions into the two countries. The other plan is to shift into and across the Pacific. As an extended maritime block NATO hopes to gain control of vital shipping lanes and complete the encirclement of its deemed rivals.
This is a dangerous shift that threatens more conflict instead of securing the peace. It is also doomed to fail, simply because the problems facing the west are self-generated.
Increasingly chest beating politics is already bringing economic damage home, putting even greater stress on already growing economic weaknesses. The relative decline in the west and rise of the east is rooted in its systemic problems and failed policy.
The Western economic and political elite are prepared or unable to reconcile themselves with this fact. They seek a scapegoat, to fabricate an enemy so that the attention of home populations is taken off them. Who fits the bell better than the Chinese, who look a little different, and provide an opportunity to stir up racism and unease about Chinese successes?
This is a time when it is crucial to embrace reality. Division into warring camps of nations can only bring horror to peoples. This has nothing to do with freedom and democracy. Western nations must turn to cleaning up their own houses and turn away from insisting on failing institutions and policies and insisting on perpetual supremacy.
All nations must learn to work together and accept differences. Without this, conflict is the only possible outcome. It would be much better to the cooperation needed to ensure that everyone benefits. Instead of a world order divided by the dominant and dominated, we need a world order working towards equality and the institutions and rules to allow this.