President Donald Trump couldn’t make up his mind about NATO. Was it a rerun of Snow Whiteman and the 28 Dwarfs, a pseudo-alliance for which American taxpayers paid almost all the bills or an encore of the opening of Gulliver’s Travels in which a race of tiny people have gone from leeching off a symbolic Uncle Sam to taking him prisoner and tying him down?
Whichever fable kindled Trump’s NATO narrative was that it was a bad deal for the United States, not only because we got stuck with the heavy lifting, but because the North Atlantic Alliance was more provocative than powerful when it came to it’s principle task, restraining Russian aggression against Europe.
Both judgments raise legitimate questions — what is the real balance of power and responsibility within NATO and how does that balance affect the real-world military and political impact of alliance?
Those two questions are things to consider about the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad. Yes, this is an amalgamation of four nations, the United States, Australia, India, and Japan, Dialoguing about military and political issues in the Western Pacific. The amalgamation anneals best on political matters where talk matters. When it comes to active collaboration militarily, America’s allies approach warily, happy to accept smaller burdens.
But this reiteration of the NATO pattern troubles our guest today, Rajan Menon, professor of international relations at the City College of New York, but less, he wrote in Foreign Policy, than the second question. Can the Quad accomplish its reason for being, containing the Chinese threat to Taiwan.
Rajan Menon is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer professor of international relations at the Powell School at the City College of New York, a senior research fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, and a fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.