NATO summit reinforces risk of world divided into blocs | International

The Joint Statement of NATO Allies At the Washington summit, the profile of a world headed for a confrontation of blocs became clear. On one side, the 32 Atlantic allies, the Indo-Pacific partners with whom they have close ties – Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand were again present at the NATO summit – and a handful of other like-minded democracies. On the other side, the emerging bloc of authoritarian regimes: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Belarus. The geographical visualization is clear: the authoritarian bloc settled in the Eurasian mass, and the democratic bloc was on the margins, be it Western Europe or the Indo-Pacific zone.

The joint statement demonstrates this plan because, unlike NATO before, it expresses the dissatisfaction of the allies as a whole with China’s support for Russia as a “decisive facilitator” of the Kremlin’s war effort in Ukraine. The text warns that if this role continues, there will be costs for China, without specifying what. “The People’s Republic of China cannot facilitate the largest war in Europe in recent history without negatively affecting its interests and reputation.” The statement, of vital geopolitical importance, comes alongside the accusations of support that Iran and North Korea also provide to Russia. China, as expected, reacted angrily to the text.

The Atlantic allies’ document makes clear that they believe that what happens in the Pacific concerns them. They stress that the connection of Beijing and other regimes with Russia is a transmission belt that increases the security threat to Europe. They also accuse China directly of malign activities of a hybrid or cyber nature.

Several movements seem to be feeding the immense machinery of the formation of two opposing blocs. On the one hand, the attack on Ukraine has led to a firm closing of the ranks of the Atlantic democracies. The countries of the Indo-Pacific region are also converging and are very concerned about the signals that China is sending. On the other hand, several movements are being observed on the authoritarian side, including the strengthening of ties between China and Russia, with strategic declarations or the increase in trade – including civil-military dual-use products and all products that serve the Kremlin. to alleviate the hardships caused by Western sanctions –; or the mutual defense agreement recently signed between Moscow and Pyongyang. The authoritarian bloc does not have alliances or formal and consolidated collective structures like the democratic bloc, but this should not lead to underestimating its capacity for cooperation. China, for its part, is also promoting networks of interaction through economic or non-military security initiatives.

The economic oxygen

Authoritarian regimes share above all the goal of reformulating the world order in a way that best suits their interests. Russia decided to pursue him by violent means. Perhaps history will show whether Xi Jinping knew about Putin’s attack on Ukraine and gave the green light. But what is clear is that the country has not been able to stop this gross aggression. On the contrary, although it does not supply weapons, it does provide Russia with the economic and industrial oxygen that is essential for the continuation of the war.

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Unlike Russia, China has no record of starting wars, but it has been sending out very worrying signals for some time now, with the militarization of disputed waters, indifference to the rulings of international courts, the crushing of democracy in Hong Kong, the development of arsenals in opacity and without any intention of reaching agreement on arms control measures.

Of course, the configuration of opposing blocs is neither desirable nor desired by all concerned. If the United States tries to close ranks to contain the problematic Chinese rise, many Europeans want to outline their own position. The attempt to create an independent – ​​and not equidistant – profile is reasonable, but the dynamics of global events seem to guide the opposing blocs in an almost irresistible way. Both are obviously trying to gain support among the non-aligned countries.

Hovering over this scenario is the great unknown of the US presidential election in November. A Trump victory would be a huge agitatorand the NATO summit appears to some extent to be an attempt to build an element of stabilization. It is highly doubtful that a newly elected Trump would opt for an abrupt US withdrawal from NATO. But it is likely that he has made decisions that could destroy the war from within and, above all, undermine Ukraine’s position, cutting off the flow of aid and pushing for an agreed solution to the war that would most likely include a promise to Putin not to continue NATO expansion and a demand for Kiev to hand over territory. It would be a disaster.

Other stones in the shoe

Trump is not the only thorn in the side. There are others, from Viktor Orbán to Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who, if they ever came to power in France, would pose a serious problem for NATO. It is worth remembering that the first wants to withdraw France from the Alliance’s integrated command, and the second continued to declare in March 2022 – when Russia had already invaded Ukraine – that NATO is “a useless organization that creates tensions” and that if he came to power, he promised to “make France a non-aligned country.” It is reasonable to assume that this is what Mélenchon thinks, tactical maneuvers and opportunistic rhetorical shifts aside.

With this panorama of uncertainties, NATO leadership has tried to secure Ukraine's future course, at least for a while. The allies are guaranteeing another $40 billion in aid to Kiev next year to the approximately 50,000 who agreed in the G-7 with a plan that will use the interests of the funds frozen in Russia. There are other measures, such as establishing a coordinating role for NATO in the supply of military equipment and training, and a war analysis center. In the meantime, supplies are flowing, the first F-16s are arriving in Ukraine, and air defenses are being strengthened. All this buys time and allows Kiev to put up a fight under Trump’s auspices in the first half of 2025. It is not negligible, but it is not enough. Europe is not prepared, and will not be prepared anytime soon, to effectively support Kiev on its own, nor to have a truly deterrent defense capability.

Besides the possibilities, there are also reasons to doubt the persistence of the will. At the annual meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations, held in Madrid in early July, the outgoing High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said: “Could the Europeans continue to support Ukraine as the United States does, right? Difficult, no doubt, but not impossible. But is there the political will? I have some doubts.”

The war in Ukraine is the spearhead of the attempt to redefine the world order. There is no doubt that there are legitimate reasons to strive for a redefinition of the order in several aspects. There is no doubt that the United States, the hegemonic country in that order, has committed criminal atrocities in recent decades, such as the invasion of Iraq or the active role in coups d'état. There is also no evidence of Western double standards. But none of this diminishes by one millimeter the imperialist bestiality that Russia is committing in Ukraine, the first case in a long time in which a world power wants to annex the territory of another country, trampling all kinds of rights and the most fundamental foundations of a peaceful world order: the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. None of this diminishes the concern caused by the rise of regimes that unscrupulously trample on the most fundamental and universal individual rights. In this context, the Democrats cannot remain inert or at an equal distance.

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