Partnership, Not Pivot: NATO’s Legal Answer to the China Question

    View Author October 2020

    The world in which NATO operates has been evolving since the Alliance’s conception. To remain relevant, NATO’s strategy and operations must also evolve. Partnerships are some of the most powerful and important tools of the Alliance’s global engagement strategy, and the Organization should expand its existing partnership infrastructure to include China.

    In an essay for NATO’s HQ SACT’s NATO Legal Gazette, associate Lauren Brown explores both the written and practiced NATO legal framework, and proposing three possible approaches to NATO’s relationship with China. The first section discusses the purpose of NATO as evinced through the historical context of its creation. The second section examines the legal framework in which NATO undertakes partnerships. The third section discusses five potential models for partnerships with China. Based on the NATO legal framework and NATO practice, the models include: maintaining the Alliance’s existing relationship with China; inviting China to form a formal bilateral partnership as part of the Partners Across the Globe framework; forming an organizational partnership with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); creating an East Asia Partnership Group; and pursuing a non-relationship.