What Quad can learn from NATO’s blunders

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What Quad can learn from NATO’s blunders

  • Wars produce much retrospective literature, and even World War I continues to produce fresh narratives, raising never before addressed issues.
  • Perhaps we are too close to the events of the Russo-Ukraine war to produce a truly dispassionate account of the events that built up to the invasion.

Russian President’s approach

  • Russian president imprisons anyone who calls the invasion a war.
  • His version is that it was a “special military operation”, akin to India’s police action against Hyderabad in 1948.
  • There is a continuing thread to the western blunders in the approach to dealing with Moscow.
  • What should have brought Putin to the notice of the West were his first two achievements:
  • Stabilisation and increase in oil production and export that hugely increased the Russian GDP
  • Successful suppression of the Chechnya revolt.

A toothless NATO

  • As economic prosperity grew in Europe and Eastern European nations clamoured to join the EU, the western leaders were overcome with arrogance and dismantled the military intellectual content of NATO headquarters, reducing NATO forces to a rapid reaction force under the political control of a civilian secretary-general.
  • The West, therefore, failed to connect Putin’s invasion of Georgia with his continuing vision to fight the regime change in Ukraine in 2015.
  • Instead, they actually made overtures to Volodymyr Zelenskyy to cosy up to a toothless NATO.
  • The most ridiculous political performance of the first day of the Russian invasion will remain the ineffectual address by Stoltenberg, the civilian secretary-general of NATO warning Russia of “consequences”.

War in the Indo-Pacific

  • Indo-Pacific is not continental Europe.
  • War in the Indo-Pacific will be a maritime war fought in accordance with maritime strategy and space assets.
  • The rules of engagement are vastly different.
  • The greatest difference is that peaceful maritime reconnaissance is a legitimate activity with the help of which situational awareness can be built up, enabling the delivery of a crippling conventional first strike in the first stages of a possible conflict.
  • To call the Quad a “diplomatic grouping” is a catastrophic error.
  • The visiting US C-in-C Pacific Command made almost an apology when he explained in Visakhapatnam that “strategy follows policy” and hence the Quad would be a diplomatic grouping, thereby going down the same erroneous route as NATO.

Actual role of Quad

  • Quad is all about maritime domain awareness, underwater domain awareness, and information sharing which are purely naval activities, which need continuous communication, a command organisation and a secretariat, neither of which we have because Quad is a diplomatic grouping.
  • The military is trained to think structurally, cast future scenarios, do contingent planning, find alternatives and plan for victory.
  • Diplomats have no such background, and the one person the West really misses today is Andrew Marshal, the originator of Net Assessment, who would certainly have foretold the rise of a dangerous and embittered Russia.
  • Each member of the Quad has a different enmity with China.
  • India sees it as an obstructionist, aggressive, land grabbing competitor
  • US sees it as an ideological and hegemonistic competitor
  • Japan and Australia are ideological allies of the US.
  • What binds these nations is their determination to dominate the Indo-Pacific and use maritime power to enforce the rules of governance.

Quad - a new maritime power

  • The great maritime strength of the Quad is its force of Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
  • Japan and the US are particularly rich in those resources.
  • India’s force of P-81s is substantial and with the help of Australia, a maritime domain awareness can be built up that denies the PLA navy the chance to hide in the vastness of the ocean.
  • The Indo-US communication agreement was presumably established to keep the four-nation search group on a common grid.
  • It would be useful to establish an Indo-Pacific situation plot at Visakhapatnam, backed by an elite naval staff, to watch the transformation of China from a regional power into a world-class navy.
  • But Quad meetings should be headed by naval officers, with diplomatic support, so that they don’t produce irrelevant communiqués like the one in February 2022 that spoke of dealing with Covid, climate change and natural disasters.