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NATO needs to become ‘more global’ to pose an effective counter to the rise of China and the associated new security challenges, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated on 8 June.

Speaking in a video debate with the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, he stated that although NATO does not see China as “the new enemy or an adversary, [its rise is] fundamentally shifting the global balance of power.”

He went on to observe that China “soon will have the biggest economy in the world [...] already has the second largest defence budget [...] and is investing heavily in modern military capabilities, including missiles that can reach all NATO Allied countries. [It is also] coming closer to us in cyberspace [...] investing in our critical infrastructure [and] working more and more together with Russia.”

To address the security concerns arising from China’s activism, Stoltenberg said, NATO should pursue “a more global approach,” in particular by establishing closer collaboration with “like-minded countries, like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea [which should aim] to defend the global rules and institutions that have kept us safe for decades [and] set norms and standards - in space and cyberspace - on new technologies and global arms control.” The ultimate objective should be that of standing “up for a world built on freedom and democracy and not bullying and coercion.”

The four countries are Major non-NATO ally (MNNA) - a designation under US law for non-NATO close strategic partners - which have in the past contributed to NATO missions. If implemented, the collaboration would make the Alliance de facto global.

China was first identified as a potential challenge during NATO’s annual summit in London last December. To tackle China’s rise and other security issues - including Russia's military activities and ISIS - Stoltenberg insisted also on the need “to use NATO more politically [which] means bringing all the issues that affect our security to NATO’s table [in order to] forge stronger consensus sooner and more systematically.” Highlighting the continued need for cohesion, he urged the US and Europe to “resist the temptation of national solutions,” warning the EU that a potential European common defence “cannot replace NATO.” The plea came as the US is reportedly considering withdrawing over a quarter of its troops from Germany.

EU Disagreement
Speaking after the video-conference on EU-Strategy Dialogue with China on 9 June, the EU High Representative Joseph Borrell said China is a “key global player [but] doesn’t have military ambitions [nor does it wish] to use force and participate in military conflicts.”

He stressed the importance of cooperation between the EU and China, highlighting that it is not possible to “imagine how to build a multilateral world without China participating in it effectively.”

The EU and China, Borrell added, share the same positions on the Iran deal (JCPOA) and Afghanistan - two issues which have seen US disengagement. On Afghanistan, he said, the two aim to “ensure stability of the country once the retreat of the American troops will be [completed] and negotiations between Taliban and the government will reach an end.”

Asked about the expression “systemic rival” - used in March 2019 by the EU to define China - he suggested the expression might bear re-examination. “Sometimes there are differences of interests and values [...] and that’s a fact of life and it’s also a fact of life that we have to cooperate,” he concluded.

Secretary General Stoltenberg expressed the Alliance’s view on evolving concerns with China. (Photo: NATO)

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