Russia itself has invited changes to international security system

Russia’s outrageous acts have brought about the establishment of a new system of alliance and cooperation among the United States, Europe, Japan and other nations. It can be said that the framework of international politics and security established after the end of World War II has reached a turning point.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided at its recent summit meeting to start procedures for the Northern European nations of Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance. As Turkey withdrew its opposition to their joining NATO, the two countries are expected to enter the alliance at an early stage after approval and ratification by all 30 NATO member nations.

The two Nordic countries rely on NATO’s right to collective self-defense because they judged that they can no longer maintain their own safety through neutrality in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For NATO as well, having the two countries join would help strengthen deterrence for the benefit of its three nearby Baltic members, including Estonia.

At the summit, NATO revised its Strategic Concept, which serves as its medium- to long-term action guidelines, for the first time in 12 years. Under the new strategy, NATO changed its prior stance of viewing Russia as a “strategic partner,” describing Moscow as “the most significant and direct threat” to NATO’s security.

The move comes as NATO has a growing sense of urgency about a situation in which Russia also could target NATO member countries and expand its territory by military force following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO plans to increase the number of its rapid reaction troops, which mobilize in times of emergency, to more than 300,000 from the current 40,000. In order to avoid a prolonged crisis situation like the one in Ukraine, NATO intends to prepare to deal with an invasion immediately and repel it. The plan should be realized quickly.

It is also noteworthy that the new Strategic Concept addressed China for the first time. China approves of Russia’s invasion and has promoted its own military expansionist policies.

Under these current circumstances, the new Strategic Concept stressed that China’s “coercive policies” challenge NATO’s interests, security and values, thus showing NATO’s wariness that China and Russia could work together to undermine the rules-based international order.

It is significant that the perceptions of Japan, the United States and other countries toward China were clearly shared even in geographically distant Europe.

This time, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese prime minister to attend a NATO summit. Japan’s active involvement in European security will help attract NATO member countries’ involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan must serve as an intermediary for promoting cooperation between NATO and Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

It is unreasonable for Russia and China to accuse the United States, Europe and Japan of escalating threats. The strengthening and expansion of the democratic camp is the result of their own military-oriented actions.

Russia and China should be aware that the only way to restore stability to international politics is for those two countries to give up on imposing pressure by force.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2022)