July, 4, 2022
By Prof. Samitha Hettige
Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were in Madrid, Spain discussing challenges it faces in the new world order. Spain is famous for Bull fighting where a brave man uses a red cloth to confuse/annoy a bull. NATO seems to be like a confused bull running amok seeing the expansion of the Belt and Road (BRI). Developing strategies to safe guard nearly one billion humans in NATO countries mainly from Russia, China and other threats have topped the agenda in Madrid. NATO’s 2022 strategic concept paper has for the first time identified China placing itself as a world power with BRI as a threat to its neighbors. To face these obstacles NATO members have reaffirmed commitment to spend at least a minimum of 2% of their GDPs on defence in the coming two years. It would be human friendly if promoting world peace is the sole goal of such an organization (worried about one million human lives). Still it seems to be using Ukraine to hit Russia with increased military aid to the war ravaged country. As per the Ukraine leader the monthly cost of defence for Ukraine is approx. 5 billion USD (4.12 GBP) (Ref Media).
Ukraine’s attempt to join the European Union and later NATO with that membership is considered a root cause for Russia’s retaliation. It reminds the Bay of Pigs in Cuba the White revolution in Iran. Ukraine’s application to join EU was recognized by the EU recently and the premier of Portugal Antonio Costa has reportedly questioned if the EU was taking risks with “false expectations” given to Ukraine. Among powers vested with veto at the UN to maintain peace in the world; Britain which believes that "cost of freedom" is "worth paying for" has so far provided more than 2.3 billion USD to help Ukraine fight the war. Britain providing climate change management advice to crisis hit Sri Lanka should also be appreciated since managing climate change is also vital for human safety more than fuel and food shortages. The US assistance to Ukraine to fight the war is approx.54 billion USD so far. France’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty is approx. 2 billion USD (Ref media).
Is China/ BRI a threat to its neighbors?
NATO sees rising China and the BRI as a threat to the neighbors. China supported Ukraine’s human development (approx one million USD) but never funded Ukraine’s war. China’s BRI has invested approx. 6 billion USD in Laos developing rail transport. The Chinese investments in Pakistan is estimated over 50 billion USD with BRI. Kazakhstan which had mega trade even during the ancient Silk Road benefitted with more than 30 billion USD investments connected with the BRI. China Nepal annual trading has been in approx 2 billion range with the BRI. The Chennai connect which has a history dating back to the Chola empire (300BC) leads China India trade with an annual rate of approx. 100 billion USD. It’s fortunate that NATO doesn’t see India as a threat to its neighbors which includes Sri Lanka. Kyrgyzstan received more than 54 million USD grants from the BRI. By 2020 Chinese investments in Vietnam surpassed 2 billion and it continues helping Vietnam to attract other investors from other parts of the globe. Tajikistan also traded with the ancient Silk Road has received more than 150 million USD through BRI. China has invested more than 4 billion USD in Mongolia with the BRI trade expansion. China deserves credit for keeping North Korea focused on human development when most powers try to bully the isolated nation. Its annual trade with the China and BRI is estimated nearly 3 billion USD. Bhutan maintains Honorary Consuls in Macau and Hong Kong helping its population to attract Chinese investments. Singapore didn’t recognize the Peoples Republic of China till the 1990s but has been a very strong trading partner of China. China’s BRI which NATO sees a threat has only invested in human development ventures and not on war. Sri Lanka is not a neighbor of China but BRI helped SL to create thousands of job opportunities and promote tourism which can attract USD. Sri Lankans should be wiser to reap more benefits from the BRI and use Shanghai Cooperation Organization etc. to come out of the crisis rather than be like Spanish bulls near police road blocks.
(The writer is an Academic and a Broadcaster. Views expressed are personal and may not necessarily be the views of his affiliations.)