A ‘coalition of the willing and the able’ should be formed from within the European members of NATO that would, in effect, form a Euro-Atlantic version of the Quad.
The Quadrilateral Alliance, a partnership that dare not speak its name in public, was formed in recognition of the need for select countries in the Indo-Pacific to work in unison, so as to ensure the maintenance of free and open access in its expansive waters. The Quad is not directed against any particular country, unless that country seeks to claim key waterways within the merged ocean as its exclusive territory and seeks to use coercive methods to keep others out. A PRC military analyst has correctly said that “the Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean”. Neither are the China Seas a part of the PRC. Both belong to the global commons. In such a context, seeking to establish choke points and control access through methods such as the occupation of uninhabited islands or rock formations, or creating artificial formations within the waters, goes against the “free and open” concept and seeks to establish ownership much the way colonising powers did over others in previous centuries. Any Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, for instance, needs to be based on the fact that the waters of the sea belong to all nations, although it may be said that by their location, the members of ASEAN have a special interest in the South China Sea remaining beyond the control of any single power or combination of countries. The Quad may find it of value to work on its own Code of Conduct ideally with ASEAN for the South China Seas that reinforces the centrality of the tenet of free and open access to the ocean. In case some members of ASEAN hesitate to sign on to such a view, individual member states such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines may be contacted to secure their assent to the proposition that the South China Sea belongs to the global collective, with ASEAN having the privileges associated with territorial congruence with its waters. Such a stance would be more likely were the Quad to itself become less ephemeral and tentative. It is clear which country some of the Quad members seem to be nervous about annoying through such an inevitable process, especially in the context of their experience over the past years. The years since 2013 in particular have demonstrated the need for an operationalisation and formalisation of the Quadrilateral Alliance in order to ensure that its objectives in the Indo-Pacific are met.
Just as there are Dialogue Partners in select country groups, there need to be Dialogue Partners in the case of the Quadrilateral Alliance. Vietnam and Indonesia need to be in such a list at the earliest. Many countries in Europe have almost as strong an interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific as they have in ensuring the same set of conditions in the Atlantic. Merging NATO with the Quad or within an expanded security and defence construct in Asia may not be the best way of ensuring its smooth functioning. Rather than expanding the Indo-Pacific Quad by adding outside countries such as the UK and France into the alliance, it would be better for a “coalition of the willing and the able” to be formed from within the European members of NATO that would, in effect, form an Atlantic version of the Quad. Joint meetings of the Indo-Pacific Quad and the Atlantic Quad could take place at regular intervals, sometimes among the members of the two blocs, and on other occasions, with Dialogue Partners of both sides participating. Given that it is also an Atlantic power, the US may join such a Euro-Atlantic Quad besides the Indo-Pacific Quad of which it is already a part of, with a grouping of the UK, France, Germany and the US. Such an innovation should be accompanied by an expansion of the G-7 into the G-10, with the addition of Australia, South Korea and India as suggested by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It has been said that Canada and Japan are unhappy at Johnson’s proposal to expand the G-7, but a G-10 would carry much more heft in the global community than the G-7, and make better sense in the context of evolving realities. Reports of the opposition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are hopefully exaggerated or inaccurate. The CCP under General Secretary Xi Jinping has understood the importance of regarding the Eurasian continent as a single entity for strategic purposes. Such comprehension has been the basis for Xi’s moves such as the Belt & Road Initiative and the establishing of the Sino-Russian alliance together with geopolitical chess grandmaster Vladimir Putin. Both Putin and Xi know that the path of their alliance towards primacy over the waters of the Atlantic needs to follow the establishment of primacy of the Sino-Russian alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Once this is established, the way is clear for the launch of a drive by the Sino-Russian alliance to establish a similar primacy over the waters of the Atlantic as well as intensified land pressure on the Baltic states and on other countries that were once part of the USSR. While the PRC would have the lead role in the Indo-Pacific, in the case of the Atlantic, it would be Russia that takes on the leadership.
President Emmanuel Macron of France is the closest of his predecessors to resembling Jacques Chirac, who in many particulars was similar in his approach to Charles de Gaulle. While the merit of some of the Macron initiatives may be the subject of debate, what is clear is that he is a strategic thinker who is unafraid to do what he believes is good for his country. President Macron has further reinforced France’s ties with India. Within the European Union, the unimaginative if steady Angela Merkel helped ensure that (with the UK no longer present), it is France that is in the driver’s seat on ideas. Creating an Atlantic Quad is essential in a context where sooner or later, the Atlantic is likely to witness the same contest for primacy that is presently being waged in the Indo-Pacific between the Sino-Russian alliance and those countries that are challenging their claim to primacy, such as India and the US.