On June 14th, after years of rhetoric, China officially joined the list of NATO enemies alongside Russia.
“The strongest and most successful alliance in history” also politely asked Russia to remove the US and Czech Republic from its “unfriendly country list” as it promoted ill spirit.
“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” the 30 NATO leaders said in a joint communiqué.
“China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems,” the statement added.
“It is also cooperating militarily with Russia, including through participation in Russian exercises in the Euro-Atlantic area,” it said.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the novelty of the text in his post-summit press conference.
“The first time [ever] we mentioned China in a communiqué and a document in a decision from NATO leaders was 18 months ago,” he noted, when NATO spoke of China-linked “opportunities and challenges” back in 2019.
“China’s not an adversary,” Stoltenberg noted.
But he also expanded on the list of its threatening activities.
“They [the Chinese] already have the … second biggest defense budget, and already the biggest navy, and they are investing heavily in new modern capabilities, including by investing in new disruptive technologies such as autonomous systems, facial recognition and artificial intelligence, and putting them into different weapon systems … they are really in the process of changing the nature of warfare,” Stoltenberg said.
He rejected the idea that NATO, whose core task was to defend the North-Atlantic region, was overstepping its treaty boundaries.
“To respond to the challenges, we see that China poses to our security, is not about moving NATO to Asia … because we see that China is coming closer to us,” he said.
“We see China coming closer to us in cyber, controlling infrastructure in Africa and the Arctic, training together with Russia in North Atlantic waters,” he added.
The NATO pivot to China did not mean it had abandoned concern on Russia, whose malign activities, from waging war in Ukraine to blowing up warehouses in the Czech Republic, still dominated the communiqué, however.
“Until Russia demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, there can be no return to ‘business as usual’,” the statement said.
China was named 10 times and Russia 62 times.
To reinforce the idea that NATO is not what it used to, France and Germany are moving in an entirely different direction, with a much softer tone with China, attempting not to antagonize Beijing.
“NATO is a military organization, the issue of our relationship with China isn’t just a military issue. It is economic. It is strategic. It is about values. It is technological,” Macron told press after the summit.
China was a “major power with which we are working on global issues to move forward together” as well as a “competitor”, he noted.
“It’s very important that we don’t … bias our relationship with China,” he said.
“China is not in the North Atlantic,” Macron added, going against Stoltenberg’s line.
“Russia, above all, is a major challenge,” Merkel also said, while noting the NATO communiqué reflected the fact the US was a Pacific-Ocean as well as an Atlantic power.
“If you look at the cyber threats, the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, then you cannot simply negate China … [but] I do not think that we should overestimate the importance of this [Chinese threat],” she added.
Additionally, the NATO summit called on Russia to remove the US and Czech Republic from the “unfriendly countries” list.
“We call on Russia to rescind the designation of the Czech Republic and the United States as “unfriendly countries” and to refrain from taking any other steps inconsistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
On top of that, Russia’s growing multi-domain military build-up, more assertive posture, novel military capabilities, and provocative activities, including near NATO borders, as well as its large-scale no-notice and snap exercises, the continued military build-up in Crimea, the deployment of modern dual-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, military integration with Belarus, and repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace, increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond.”
In addition to its military activities, Russia has also intensified its hybrid actions against NATO Allies and partners, including through proxies. This includes attempted interference in Allied elections and democratic processes; political and economic pressure and intimidation; widespread disinformation campaigns; malicious cyber activities; and turning a blind eye to cyber criminals operating from its territory, including those who target and disrupt critical infrastructure in NATO countries. It also includes illegal and destructive activities by Russian Intelligence Services on Allied territory, some of which have claimed lives of citizens and caused widespread material damage. We stand in full solidarity with the Czech Republic and other Allies that have been affected in this way.
Russia has continued to diversify its nuclear arsenal, including by deploying a suite of short- and intermediate-range missile systems that are intended to coerce NATO. Russia has recapitalised roughly 80 percent of its strategic nuclear forces, and it is expanding its nuclear capabilities by pursuing novel and destabilising weapons and a diverse array of dual-capable systems. Russia continues to use aggressive and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and has increased its ongoing emphasis on destabilising conventional exercises that include dual-capable systems. Russia’s nuclear strategy and comprehensive nuclear weapon systems modernisation, diversification, and expansion, including the qualitative and quantitative increase of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons, increasingly support a more aggressive posture of strategic intimidation. We will continue to work closely together to address all the threats and challenges posed by Russia.
It was all largely repeated statements, furthermore there was an empty statement in support of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, but no concrete steps were agreed.
No membership for either Georgia or Ukraine, and it is entirely unclear when their aspirations of becoming a member can become reality.
All three countries are in the same point of the communique, as not to waste any extra space for partners that are only supported on paper.
“We reiterate our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova within their internationally recognised borders. In accordance with its international commitments, we call on Russia to withdraw the forces it has stationed in all three countries without their consent. We strongly condemn and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and denounce its temporary occupation. The human rights abuses and violations against the Crimean Tatars and members of other local communities must end. Russia’s recent massive military build-up and destabilising activities in and around Ukraine have further escalated tensions and undermined security. We call on Russia to reverse its military build-up and stop restricting navigation in parts of the Black Sea. We also call on Russia to stop impeding access to the Sea of Azov and Ukrainian ports. We commend Ukraine’s posture of restraint and diplomatic approach in this context. We seek to contribute to de-escalation. We are also stepping up our support to Ukraine. We call for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all sides, and support the efforts of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. Russia, as a signatory of the Minsk Agreements, bears significant responsibility in this regard. We call on Russia to stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine. We reiterate our full support to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. We stress the importance of ensuring its safety and full and unhindered access throughout the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and the Russia-Ukraine border, in accordance with its mandate. We further call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent states; to implement the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire agreement; to end its militarisation of these regions and attempts to forcibly separate them from the rest of Georgia through the continued construction of border-like obstacles; and to cease the human rights violations, arbitrary detentions, and harassments of Georgian citizens. We reiterate our firm support to the Geneva International Discussions. We also call on Russia to engage constructively in the Transnistria Settlement Process. We are committed to supporting the Republic of Moldova’s democratic reforms and providing assistance through our Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative.”
In short, the entire summit simply showed that NATO is not as united as it would like to be. It is not what it used to be, and at one point it was the “strongest and most successful alliance in history”, currently, it is simply a shell filled with those who pursue their own interest.
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