Panel: The Changing Landscape of U.S. International Alliances

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Originally published on October 15, 2020

The Schar School of Policy and Government’s Center for Security Policy Studies hosted its second symposium, this one focusing on international alliances and whether or not they are adapting to 21st century requirements.

After his welcoming remarks, Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School, turned the floor over to Schar School Professor Colin Dueck, a lecturer on grand strategy who moderated the discussion. Panelists included former Ambassador Douglas Lute, who served as NATO ambassador and deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan under presidents Bush and Obama; Yuki Tatsumi, senior fellow at think tank the Stimson Center; and Soyoung Kwon, director of Security Policy Studies-Korea at the Schar School.

“NATO strikes me as incredibly resilient,” said Lute. “I don’t know too many institutions at the 70-year mark, or maybe even individuals at the 70-year mark, who can’t use a bit of refreshing or reinvigoration. But the pattern over NATO’s 70-year history is that over and again it has been amazingly adaptive and resilient.”

But could the institution withstand a transfer of leadership to Europe?

“The European defense industry, which would build such European capability [to have a Europe-led NATO], is lagging behind by at least a generation from American defense capability,” said Lute. “There’s no quick substitute for the hard American military power that is in NATO.”

As for alliances on the other side of the world, “the Japanese elite really [don’t] see any alternative to anchor their national security policies other than this close alliance with the United States,” said Tatsumi. “These elites continue to have a very high level of confidence in the very institutionalized ways in which this alliance has been managed by government officials on both sides of the Pacific. Their confidence in those institutions is very high, but at the same time, after experiencing the four years of the Trump administration and a lot of unpredictability, it is definitely raising questions in some peoples’ minds.”

In regards to South Korea-United States relations, Kwon said, “In general, the progressive government would favor improving inter-Korean relations and have some form of ‘anti-U.S. sentiment,’ whereas the conservatives are pro-U.S. and anti-North Korea.”

“It has been 67 years since Korea, and the U.S. signed the mutual defense treaty. It has been very steady,” said Kwon, “It has been a lynchpin for security, stability, and prosperity of the East Asian region and peninsula.”