If China and the U.S. came to blows in the Pacific over a disputed reef, two ships trading paint or a more serious confrontation, what role would America’s European allies play?
Strategically, the NATO alliance would be put in a difficult position. A European military response in support of the U.S. would be an operational, and political, challenge not seen since World War II. Economically, the European Union is China’s biggest trading partner, which could make caution win the day. Geography presents its own challenges in getting the right aircraft or ships to the region in enough time to make a difference or offer a deterrent force in hopes of heading off a collision of two world powers. Many of the US weapons systems vulnerable to Chinese cyber operations are also in use with NATO forces and are sure to be similarly hacked.
The time ask this question is not during a crisis, but before, when there is time and attention to spare.