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Beyond fanfare and hub-and-spokes bilateralism: How NATO can constructively engage with the Asia-Pacific

As a transatlantic alliance whose main focus will remain on Europe at least in the near to mid future, should NATO even spend resources to think about what role to play in the Asia-Pacific? There are no obvious answers to this question. NATO members and pundits have been engaged in an ongoing debate regarding whether NATO should (re)focus on European collective defense or broaden its strategic outlook toward global collective security. The lack of consensus on the Alliance’s geographical reach and scope of action, combined with a high degree of uncertainty about the future of international relations in the Asia-Pacific, make it difficult to draw a roadmap for a NATO Asia policy that would be welcomed as a viable option by the different stakeholders on both sides. Divergent national priorities and threat perceptions notwithstanding, in this article, I will argue that by taking a closer look at security dynamics in the Asia-Pacific over the past decades, it is possible to devise several directives on how NATO can play a constructive role for the region’s stability and, by extension, global security.