NATO ill-equipped to defend members: Dutch advisory council

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gestures as he addresses a press conference during the second day of a defence ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on November 9, 2017. (AFP / JOHN THYS)
Updated 10 November 2017
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NATO ill-equipped to defend members: Dutch advisory council

THE HAGUE: NATO is poorly equipped to defend members against aggression amid uncertainty over its unity under US President Donald Trump, which could allow Russia to exploit vulnerabilities, a Dutch advisory body warned Friday.
“It is becoming doubtful whether NATO will act responsibly and unanimously when it comes to it. There is internal division in an increasing number of areas,” said Joris Voorhoeve, chairman of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV).
“Uncertainty about the political leadership of the United States under President Trump is accompanied by concerns about the alliance’s unity,” he added.
The warning comes in a report issued Friday by the independent body which advises the Dutch foreign ministry and the government on policy.
“NATO is insufficiently equipped for its core task: protecting members against aggression via a credible deterrent and collective defense,” the AIV said in a statement.
But NATO hit back, insisting it is “the strongest alliance in the world — with 2.5 million men and women under arms and available to come to the defense of any NATO member.”
“The commitment of the United States to NATO is beyond doubt,” NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet added in an email to AFP.
The Dutch body called on the 29-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), set up in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II, to strengthen internal cohesion and work to improve transatlantic relations as “the United States remains indispensable for Europe’s security.”
From the founding of the alliance the US has been its “political and military backbone,” but since Trump took office in January there has been “a lack of leadership” by the Americans.
Europe’s safety is under threat from “destabilizing actions by Russia” and from the current instability in the Middle East, it concludes.
Regions such as the Baltics are currently “not well protected (and) an assertive Russia could seek to abuse this situation,” the report, entitled “The future of NATO and the Security of Europe,” warned.
It recommends that military units on the alliance’s eastern flank in countries such as Lithuania and Poland “should be significantly strengthened” and NATO should consider deploying some kind of rotating brigade.
It also calls for the lifting of bureaucratic obstacles to allow military units and equipment to move more rapidly across borders if needed, by establishing what it called a “military Schengen” — a reference to the EU’s 26-nation borderless system.
But NATO deputy spokesman Cazalet refuted the idea that Baltic nations were vulnerable.
“Our Baltic allies are not just protected by their national forces and NATO’s multinational battlegroups, but by the sum total of Allied armed forces,” he said.
“In response to a more challenging security environment, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of its defense since the end of the Cold War,” he added, highlighting that four multinational battle groups have been deployed to the east.
He also stressed that the NATO response force has been tripled “with a new 5,000-strong quick reaction force at its core, capable of moving in days.”
Concerns, however, have grown about the threat to the alliance’s eastern region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Nato is currently upgrading capabilities to combat a resurgent Russia, as part of the alliance’s biggest shakeup since the Cold War, with defense ministers on Wednesday backing the creation of two new command centers to help protect Europe.


China expects Taiwan’s last Africa ally will switch to Beijing soon

Updated 8 min 42 sec ago
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China expects Taiwan’s last Africa ally will switch to Beijing soon

  • Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province with no right to state-to-state relations, now has formal ties with only 17 countries
  • China’s hostility to Taiwan has grown since President Tsai Ing-wen’s election

BEIJING/TAIPEI: China expects self-ruled Taiwan’s last diplomatic ally in Africa, the Kingdom of eSwatini, will switch to Beijing soon, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday, a day after China won over the third Taipei ally in a year.
Taiwan, which China claims as a wayward province with no right to state-to-state relations, now has formal ties with only 17 countries, many of them small, less developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who has vowed not to bow to Chinese pressure, came under opposition criticism on Wednesday amid calls for a more friendlier policy toward Beijing.
Taiwan vowed on Tuesday to fight China’s “increasingly out of control” behavior after Taipei lost another ally to Beijing when El Salvador became the third country to switch allegiances to China this year.
Ahead of next month’s summit between China and African leaders in Beijing, China has been upping the pressure on Taiwan’s last remaining ally on the continent, eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, to come over to China’s side, diplomatic sources say.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing about the summit, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong that eSwatini did not have relations with China “for reasons that everyone knows.”
“We look forward to and hope that all African nations, with none left behind, can take part in positive China-Africa cooperation, and become a member of the largest family get together,” Chen said.
“I believe that this is not just the pursuit of China, it is also a widespread shared expectation of African nations. I believe that this target can in the not too distant future be realized,” he added, without elaborating.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed not to bow to Chinese pressure, Taipei has accused Beijing of offering generous aid and loan packages to lure its allies across, charges China denies.
The island’s biggest opposition group, the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), urged for a “better alternative” following what it described as “enormous mistakes” in Tsai’s cross-strait policy.
“The ruling party has the responsibility to think of a better cross-strait policy ...The relations with China have turned stagnant and were frozen,” KMT’s spokesman Mong-kai Hung said.
Yu-fang Lin, a KMT lawmaker who leads the diplomacy and defense committee in the Taiwan parliament, urged Tsai to recognize the “one China” principle, an agreement reached between Beijing and then-ruling KMT in 1992, under which both agreed there is only one China, with each having their own interpretation of what that means.
“She should bravely tell her supporters they need a friendlier policy to China, this way there would be more support for her,” Lin said.
China’s hostility to Taiwan has grown since Tsai’s election as Beijing fears she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China. She says she wants to maintain the status quo but will defend Taiwan’s democracy.
State-run Chinese newspaper the Global Times said in a Wednesday editorial that China did not have to “pay a fortune to steal Taiwan’s ‘allies’.”
“Many of the island’s ‘allies’ have a larger trade volume with China than with Taiwan. Their establishment of diplomatic ties with the Chinese mainland is an irresistible trend. It is only a matter of time before Taiwan has zero ‘allies.’”