With this week's G7 summit complete and the NATO summit in full swing, CNAS experts weigh in to unpack key developments and project forward the impact of these strategic dialogues.
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Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer:
The G7 and NATO summits demonstrate that a common threat moves alliances. The transatlantic allies emerge from this week stronger, with additional NATO deployments and defense spending; larger, with the addition of Sweden and Finland; and better able to defend Europe, with a new U.S. presence in Poland and elsewhere on the eastern flank. That's positive, and was hardly a given. The elected leaders must not only deal with Russian aggression but also attendant economic worries over energy and food prices and looming slowdowns. So far allied cohesion and the desire to resist aggression continue to trump purely domestic concerns, and so the unity endures—a good thing, too, given the profound threat posed by Russia's war of conquest.
Less concrete—but potentially no less a turning point—is NATO's new approach to China. Beijing is, the allies say in their new strategic concept, a "systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security." So it is, not least through its backing of Russia's war, and for the first time four Indo-Pacific leaders were on hand to affirm the conclusion. Labeling China a challenge to transatlantic allies, however, is far easier than determining what precisely they should do about it. Developing a common, enduring approach to the challenges to international order posed simultaneously by both China and Russia is no easy task. Yet that is precisely the course that the United States and its allies set for themselves this week.
Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program:
The launch of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) at this week’s G7 summit marks a major milestone in closing the global infrastructure financing gap and providing countries with alternatives to China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The PGII, for which the G7 nations have pledged to raise $600 billion in investment funds over the next five years, will target middle- and low-income countries and focus on projects that address climate change, expand secure information and communication technology networks, advance gender equality, and upgrade health systems.
Individually, the G7 nations would be unable to match the levels of investment made by China’s state-owned entities in BRI projects. Collectively, however, they can demonstrate that China is not the only option for meeting infrastructure needs, and that partnering with democratic nations will help ensure investments are transparent, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. BRI recipient nations are becoming wary of China’s BRI goals, given Beijing’s lack of commitment to transparent lending and examples of BRI projects that have allowed China to gain access to strategic assets, as in the case of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, where Colombo was forced to lease the port to China for 99 years in exchange for $1 billion in debt relief.
China was also on the minds of NATO leaders when they met today in Madrid. NATO's 2022 Strategic Concept document addressed China for the first time ever, calling it a "systemic challenge" to the alliance's interests, security, and values. While the NATO members have been working on the document language for several months, their willingness to call out Chinese coercion and military build-up was likely strengthened by Russia's war in Ukraine. European nations were taken off guard by the Russian aggression in Europe, and don't want to make a similar mistake on China in the Indo-Pacific region
Joshua Fitt, Associate Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program:
The NATO summit in Madrid comes at an important time for the alliance—Sweden and Finland are preparing for membership and Russia's war in Ukraine rages on in NATO's backyard. However, between these important European headlines, the summit marked some significant Indo-Pacific "firsts" as well. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol became the first heads of state from their countries to attend a NATO summit, marking an important development in the growing role of transatlantic alliances in preserving a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. A conversation between Kishida and Yoon also marked the first leader-level exchange between Japan and South Korea since December 2019. While brief, the conversation serves as an important icebreaker in the all-but-suspended relations between two critical U.S. Indo-Pacific treaty allies. Though hurdles to thawing ties remain in place on both sides, new administrations in both Tokyo and Seoul give more promise to a restoration of a productive bilateral relationship than there has been in the past several years.
Megan Lamberth, Associate Fellow, Technology and National Security Program:
At the NATO summit, I’m interested to see developments for NATO’s new Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or DIANA. Just recently stood-up, the goal of DIANA is to create a network of accelerator sites and technology centers across the alliance. In its NATO summit fact sheet, the White House has offered access to U.S. testing centers and accelerator sites. As NATO countries look to harness the potential of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, or autonomy, DIANA could allow for greater research collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and more robust talent exchanges across the alliance.
Jason Bartlett, Research Associate, Energy, Economics, and Security Program:
For the first time, both South Korea and Japan have joined the 2022 NATO summit as the transatlantic alliance seeks to strengthen ties with key Asian allies and partners during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and growing geopolitical concerns regarding Beijing. This will likely test the resolve of Seoul and Tokyo to rebuke Chinese aggression and economic coercion as Chinese state-sponsored media has already denounced the NATO summit as a tool against China and Russia. In particular, Beijing will likely have strong reactions to Seoul's decision to join the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), making it the second Asian country after Japan to participate in NATO-led cybersecurity training and exercises.
Hannah Kelley, Research Assistant, Technology and National Security Program:
The G7’s new $600 billion global infrastructure package, dubbed the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, seeks to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) efforts by providing better alternatives to targeted states. In addition to the EU’s €300 billion pledge, the United States has committed $200 billion in public-private partnerships over the next five years. Though a promising, albeit belated, start, the international community must do more to bolster the domestic capacities of emerging economies and strengthen their global positions as players, not pawns.
China’s BRI is just one node in its larger industrial policy strategy, spanning its Chinese Military-Civil Fusion strategy and Made in China 2025 strategy, among others. G7 states should develop complementary domestic industrial policy strategies–instilled with democratic values and informed by their national contexts– to better collaborate and hedge against China’s global posture. Such domestic strategies should also include clear avenues for enhanced, cross-national public-private partnerships, well-funded joint-innovation work streams, and less cumbersome critical technology talent networks. Stopping the bleeding of China’s BRI is important, and infrastructure alternatives provide key opportunities for triage, but healing the wounds inflicted by the PRC’s economic and political coercion and ensuring lasting resiliency among more vulnerable states will require comprehensive domestic and partner industrial policy strategies to outperform China on every plane.
Nicholas Lokker, Research Assistant, Transatlantic Security Program:
In a key diplomatic breakthrough, Finland and Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, clearing the way for the two Nordic countries to become the newest members of the alliance. Finnish and Swedish NATO membership will cement a profound geopolitical shift that has occurred following the Russian invasion of Ukraine—with Moscow’s hostile intentions no longer up for debate, the transatlantic community has become more united in response to the increasingly fragile international security environment. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, who undoubtedly anticipated a fractured Western response to the war, this new round of NATO expansion represents nothing less than a major setback to his longstanding objective of weakening the United States and Europe.
Nigel Vinson, Research Assistant, Technology and National Security Program:
The G7 announcement of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment provides a concrete alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative by pooling resources and seeking to achieve commonly shared objectives. One of the most important aspects of the partnership will be the ability to deliver on promises surrounding digital infrastructure and critical cyber tools for economic development. This deliverable may be the most important piece of the partnership as a nation’s economic growth in the 21st century comes from the ability to build a society and economy able to stay afloat in an age of digital connectivity. The PGII recognizes that submarine telecommunication cables, information communications technology infrastructure, and cybersecurity initiatives are now just as important as bridges, roads, and ports for developing a nation’s economic growth.
In addition, the announcement clearly shows that G7 leaders realize two other things. First, Beijing has taken substantial steps to pour large sums of capital into these types of infrastructure projects over the years. Second, Beijing’s investment in digital infrastructure and cyber tools for developing nations is undoubtedly built around the norms and standards that Beijing desires. A digitally based international community functioning off of Beijing’s own norms would not only be antithetical to the G7’s vision, but would also have wide-reaching national security implications. Going forward, the question will be: how can the G7 execute and deliver over a sustained period of time? G7 countries should continue to coordinate their respective infrastructure investment tools, while ensuring that projects align with the expressed needs of receiving states. These infrastructure projects are neither cheap nor quick to build, and it will take a sustained effort on the part of G7 leaders to keep their promises and deliver. Ultimately, actions will speak louder than words.
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