After a decade centered on asymmetric warfare in the Middle East and Central Asia, the US has announced a “Pivot to the Pacific,” designed among others to prevent China from subverting the international law of the sea, turning the bodies of water off her shores into mere extensions of her territory. The move has been welcomed by US allies like the Philippines and Vietnam, involved in territorial maritime disputes with Beijing, which are in turn also supported by India and Japan, and increasingly by Russia.
This prompts the question of how current and future NATO members could help the US secure this essential objective, keeping freedom of navigation and the framework of the law of the sea, one of the foundations of the post-war political and economic order on which the prosperity of the Free World rests, and one of the pillars of the Atlantic Charter, issued by US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill.
Admiral David G Farragut, hero of the Union Navy during the American Civil War.
His father was a Catalan from Minorca
According to an article by James R. Holmes1, an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College, "European capitals can order ships to cruise through the China seas and other expanses where freedom of the seas is under duress, flying Western flags from as many mastheads as possible." The idea is to undertake "freedom of navigation operations", carrying out certain activities within the Chinese EEZ that Beijing claims are forbidden in those waters which she considers to be territorial, and therefore prevent the emergence of precedents which may support such claims.In addition, the author believes that European Navies may aid the US by undertaking the main responsibility for securing the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, thus allowing the US Navy to concentrate en force in the Indo-Pacific area. He cites an historical precedent for this, namely the arrangements among London, Paris, Washington, and Tokyo, in the run up to the First World War. European NATO members would be responsible for securing the Western approaches to the Pacific, thus multiplying available US options if war broke out.Unfortunately, over the past year we have seen a NATO member state use her navy to:• Harass the territory of another NATO member state in pursuit of a territorial claim repeatedly rejected in successive referenda by the population involved, illegally entering her territorial waters, and causing a string of incidents.• Force trawlers from a territory incorporated by force in the past, which is gradually moving towards a restoration of sovereignty within NATO and the EU by democratic and peaceful means, to fly her flag.
Needless to say, these actions are incompatible with supporting the United States' "Pivot to the Pacific", since they tie up her scarce naval resources.
Monument to Catalan Admiral Roger de Lluria, in Barcelona
Therefore, in order for Europe to effectively support peace in the Indo-Pacific region, freedom of navigation, the wider Law of the Sea, countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, and the US "Pivot to the Pacific", it is essential to see the following commitments:
• By existing NATO member states not to deploy their navies either in pursuit of territorial conflicts with fellow Atlantic Alliance partners or against territories peacefully and democratically exercising their right to self-determination.
• By new NATO member states to regularly deploy naval assets to the Chinese EEZ in order to prevent Beijing from claiming they are territorial waters, and to contribute such assets to the joint allied securing of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, thus freeing up the US Navy to more effectively redeploy to the Indo-Pacific theatre of operations.
"*Alex Calvo* is a Professor of International Relations and International Law, Head of the IR Department, and Postgraduate Research Director, European University (Barcelona Campus). An expert on Asian security and defence issues, he got his LLB from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London) and is currently doing an MA in Second World War Studies at the University of Birmingham. He is a former teaching and research fellow at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)."
1 HOLMES James R., "How Europe Can Support the ‘Pivot’", "The Diplomat", 9 July 2012, available at http://thediplomat.com/flashpoints-blog/2012/07/09/how-europe-can-support-the-pivot/
* Article publicat a Help Catalonia. Com sempre les reflexions del professor Alexandre Calvo són dignes d'estadista. Ens ofereix, amb el seu estil elegant i anglo-saxo, les pistes de com pot actuar Europa i l'OTAN, en el "pivot cap al Pacific, així com fa palés que hi ha catalans amb molt sentit d'Estat, quelcom imprescindible per assolir la Llibertat...