3 Apr 2023

Closer ties for New Zealand with NATO 'a logical fit'

5:28 am on 3 April 2023
Nanaia Mahuta

Nanaia Mahuta will represent New Zealand at NATO's meeting in Brussels. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

An international relations expert believes New Zealand has developed a closer relationship with the NATO military alliance.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is en route to Europe to attend a session of the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels.

Mahuta's trip follows a visit by a NATO military delegation to New Zealand last month.

During the two-day visit, Lieutenant General Diella, the director of NATO's Cooperative Security Division, met with "key military leaders" from the Defence Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

University of Otago politics professor Robert Patman said New Zealand's relationship with NATO had gotten closer.

"It's a logical fit. We believe in a multilateral approach to security and we have done for decades.

"NATO is the biggest multilateral security organisation in the world largely consisting of democracies...

"The other thing here, of course, is that we have a huge stake in what is often described as the international rules-based system, or rules-based order and that's under threat at the moment."

Lt Gen Diella said in a statement on the NATO website that the organisation agreed at last year's summit in Madrid to deepen their engagement in this region "because the link between European and Indo-Pacific security is clear".

"Allies' engagement with our partners in the Indo-Pacific region has reached historic levels and we are determined to continue deepening and strengthening it.

"We are determined to continue to deepen and strengthen our cooperation with our Indo-Pacific partners, for example by having their armed forces take part in NATO exercises and activities, which improves our collective interoperability and ensures our forces can meet common challenges."

It is important New Zealand has good security relations with its economic partners, Patman said.

"With the world becoming a smaller place, and with middle powers and small powers, exercising more influence, because we're now confronted with problems which are too big for any one state to solve on their own.

"And that gives us an opportunity to shape the world in direction we'd like to go. And that's how I see the relationship with NATO.

"Could we deepen it? I think we probably could. But that, of course, may have costs. We may be expected to do more to support Ukraine, for example."

New Zealand has engaged in dialogue and cooperation with NATO for more than 25 years.

It became a partner of the alliance in 2012.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first New Zealand leader to address the NATO summit in Madrid last year.

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