US warns allies that crisis in Ukraine endangers post-WWII order
MELBOURNE, Australia — The United States has warned that Russian aggression against Ukraine risks spreading instability in the Indo-Pacific if it does not oppose and deepen ties with three allies who target counter threats to the region, including from China.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking alongside the foreign ministers of Australia, India and Japan, told reporters that the Ukraine crisis is a challenge to the basic principles that have underpinned prosperity and stability since World War II, arguing that countries should not be allowed to unilaterally change borders, dictate choices to their neighbors, or wield a sphere of influence.
“If we allow these principles to be challenged with impunity, even if it is halfway around the world in Europe, it will have an impact here too,” Mr Blinken said on Friday during a visit to Melbourne for a reunion with his counterparts from what is known as Quad. “Others are watching; others look to all of us to see how we react.
As Mr. Blinken sought to strengthen ties with regional partners, the White House on Friday released its official strategy for the Indo-Pacific. The 12-page document codifies the Biden administration’s approach to the region, emphasizing the centrality of US alliances to building and sustaining openness and prosperity, and contrasting it with China.
The document calls on Beijing to use economic, diplomatic, military and technological might to make China’s sphere of influence Indo-Pacific. He cites the economic pressure China has exerted on Australia, a bloody border clash with India, intimidation of neighbors in the South China Sea and increased military activity around Taiwan.
“PRC coercion and aggression span the globe, but are most acute in the Indo-Pacific,” the document said, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China. The document later said, “Our collective efforts over the next decade will determine whether the PRC succeeds in transforming the rules and norms that have benefited the Indo-Pacific and the world.”
The Quad plays a vital role in the strategy, being mentioned 13 times, along with other alliances and partnerships in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Mr Blinken and his Quad counterparts stressed that the grouping exists to affirm shared values and find avenues of cooperation, rather than to counter any one country in particular, but they described threats to the prevailing regional and international order. .
“Our region is going through a period of growing strategic uncertainty,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said after the meeting. “The rules and norms that have served as the basis for our stability and, therefore, our prosperity are under pressure, in particular, from authoritarian regimes.”
The Biden administration has sought to elevate the Quad, a hitherto informal grouping of the United States, Australia, India and Japan, to promote the benefits of democracy, coordinate economic issues and security and to counter increased Chinese military activity in the Indo-Pacific. In September, President Biden hosted his Quad counterparts in Washington, and Japan agreed to host the second Quad Leaders Summit in person in the first half of 2022.
Earlier, when asked if a confrontation with China in the Indo-Pacific region was inevitable, Blinken said “nothing is inevitable” but Quad members “share concerns that that in recent years China has acted more repressively at home and more aggressively in the region and, indeed, potentially beyond.
Blinken said his presence in the region amid the crisis in Europe demonstrates the importance of the Indo-Pacific and underscores Washington’s commitment to the region, which he says will shape the trajectory of the 21st century. .
Russia has around 100,000 troops positioned near Ukraine, along with additional forces conducting exercises in Belarus and deployed in the Black Sea. US officials estimate that Russian President Vladimir Putin has 70% of the forces he needs to stage a full-scale invasion.
“We’re in a window where an invasion could start at any time, and to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” Blinken said. He said the United States would continue to reduce the footprint of its embassy in Kyiv, from where families of diplomats were ordered to leave in January.
Taiwan, a democratically governed island that China claims, is increasingly a point of friction between Washington and Beijing. The new Indo-Pacific strategy says the United States wants to “maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, including supporting Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities” so that Taiwan can determine its future.
The strategy document notes the importance of trade as a driver of prosperity and U.S. ties to the region, but does not propose any liberalization or market access initiatives. Regional partners have sought U.S. offers on trade after then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement the Obama administration signed with Pacific nations.
Biden administration is opting for a softer set of standards within an Indo-Pacific economic framework, details of which a senior administration official says will be available soon
Foreign policy experts expected the Quad talks to be closely watched given that the meeting comes shortly after Mr Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Beijing and formed a pact aimed at to counter the United States and its allies.
Although Mr Blinken did not directly address the new China-Russia pact, Ms Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, said she was concerned about the rapprochement. China is an important trading partner for Australia, but relations between the two countries have soured in recent years.
“It is concerning because it does not present or represent a world order that fits with these ambitions of freedom, openness, sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity,” she said of the pact.
—William Mauldin contributed to this article.
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