Biden, NATO highlight threats from China, Russia

BRUSSELS – President Biden and NATO allies have warned of China’s global influence and called Russia a threat to European and Atlantic security as the US leader seeks to rally democratic nations against autocracies and to strengthen an alliance shaken by the edges of its predecessor.

Despite an atmosphere of renewed courtesy among the allies, disputes are brewing over how to balance China’s new threats against more traditional ones from Russia and how to deal with threats in new areas, including the cyber and space. Turkey’s increasingly jarring role in the alliance also weighed on the rally.

In a 79-paragraph long statement released on Monday, China is mentioned nearly a dozen times, a change from previous North Atlantic Treaty Organization summits, where Beijing was barely mentioned.

“China’s growing influence and international policies may present challenges that we must tackle together as an alliance,” the document said. “We will engage China to defend the security interests of the alliance.”

The statement said China presents “systemic challenges to the rules-based international order.” NATO also mentions concerns over Beijing’s rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal and military cooperation with Russia.

President Biden greeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday.


Photo:

olivier matthys / swimming pool press

The 30-country alliance also called for “constructive dialogue with China to the extent possible,” noting climate change as a common challenge.

The NATO statement came just a day after leaders of the Group of Seven Wealthy Democracies called on China to respect human rights, and marked a consecutive outstanding rebuke from the country.

But Russia remains a central concern for NATO countries. He is mentioned more than 60 times in the statement, which criticizes Moscow’s military build-up, cyber attacks and disinformation attacks directed against the West and its annexation of Crimea to Ukraine.

Mr Biden said it was too early to say whether Ukraine should join NATO. “It depends on whether they meet the criteria,” the president said, adding that the country needs to clean up corruption. The comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters he wanted a yes or no answer on whether the nation could join.

The summit also looked to the future. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said leaders agreed to develop a new Strategic Concept for the alliance, its main policy document. Leaders discussed how NATO would respond to climate change, including measuring greenhouse gas emissions from military activities and possibly formulating voluntary reduction targets.

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The press release indicates that Article 5, the principle of collective defense enshrined in the treaty that created NATO in 1949, can be invoked on a case-by-case basis in response to a cyberattack.

At Monday’s summit, Biden stressed his commitment to the principle of collective defense enshrined in Article 5, following some uncertainty over Washington’s view on the issue under former President Donald Trump.

“Section five which we regard as a sacred obligation,” Mr. Biden said. “I want NATO to know America is here.”

The summit comes two days before Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, and Biden briefed Allied leaders on the meeting.

Mr Biden warned of the consequences if jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny dies. “Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of respecting basic human rights,” Biden said at a press conference Monday evening. Speaking of Mr Putin, Mr Biden added: “It would be a tragedy. It would only hurt his relationship with the rest of the world, in my opinion, and with me. “

In a press conference following the summit among Group of Seven leaders on Sunday, President Biden discussed working with allies, global vaccine donations and how the group plans to address challenges. challenges posed by China. Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The US president called him a worthy adversary, adding: “We will respond if Russia continues its nefarious activities.” He did not explain how the United States would react.

The language related to China in the NATO communiqué was less forceful than the G-7 document. Mr Stoltenberg acknowledged the difficulties of finding consensus in a group with so many members.

“As always, when 30 allies have to agree, we have to balance, we have to work out some differences,” he said.

Mr. Biden seeks to build a coalition of democracies to counter Chinese influence in the world. But in NATO, there is some skepticism among European allies as to what the role of the military alliance might be. European capitals do not want to be drawn into a confrontation between the United States and China.

“There are, of course, opportunities, and we need to engage with China on issues such as climate change, arms control,” Stoltenberg said on Monday. “But China’s military strengthening, growing influence and coercive behavior also pose challenges to our security.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has said NATO’s new approach should not distract the alliance from its focus on traditional issues such as Russia and terrorism.


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thomas coex / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Some allies, especially those bordering Russia, want to ensure that a greater focus on China does not distract from the threat of an increasingly assertive Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that NATO is a military alliance, while relations with China should encompass economic ties, values ​​and technology.

He said China’s new approach should not dilute NATO’s efforts on more traditional issues such as Russia and terrorism.

Still, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said NATO could handle it. “We can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Allies also discussed the withdrawal from Afghanistan, including securing the embassy presence in the country that supports Afghan national security forces and providing humanitarian assistance to the country.

“Our troops are returning home, but we have agreed that our diplomatic, economic and humanitarian commitment to the Afghan people and our support for the Afghan National Security Forces will continue,” Biden said.

Mr Biden held several meetings on the sidelines of the summit, including with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leaders of Poland, Romania and the main Baltic states.

The summit is the first in NATO for Mr. Biden as president. He promised Mr. Trump a different style of cooperation. Allies have been bruised by Mr. Trump’s criticism of weak military spending and his questioning of the value of the alliance.

Mr Trump, as a presidential candidate, appeared to put conditions on his support for Article 5. At a NATO meeting in 2017, he did not mention the commitment of states- United against Article 5 in public remarks, raising concern among European nations. He later said he was committed to the principle.

Mr Stoltenberg said on Monday that allies in Europe and Canada have added an additional $ 260 billion in spending since 2014. But only 10 of 30, including the United States, have met the spending target of 2% of proceeds. gross domestic last year.

Biden visits Europe

More WSJ coverage of the President’s trip, selected by an editor

Write to Andrew Restuccia at [email protected] and James Marson at [email protected]

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