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5th Jul 2020

Nato: China-Russia axis threatens Western power

  • China and Russia "working more and more together", Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday (Photo: nato.int)

China is becoming an increasing "threat" to Europe, alongside Russia, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has said.

"The rise of China is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power ... multiplying the threats to open societies and individual freedoms and increasing the competition over our values and our way of life," he said in a video-briefing on Monday (8 June).

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  • Former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (r) with Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang in 2018 (Photo: European Commission)

"Nato does not see China as the new enemy or an adversary," he added.

"But ... they [the Chinese] already have the second largest defence budget [in the world]. They are investing heavily in modern military capabilities, including missiles that can reach all Nato-allied countries," he noted.

"We see them [Chinese forces] in the Arctic, in Africa. We see them investing in our critical infrastructure. And they are working more and more together with Russia. All of this has a security consequence for Nato allies," Stoltenberg said.

The former Norwegian prime minister spoke amid talks on how to reshape Nato in the next 10 years.

The Western alliance was formed after World War 2 to contain the Soviet Union.

It is still trying to contain Russia, with new Nato battalions and military drills in the Baltic region after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. It is also doing counter-terrorist operations, for instance, in Afghanistan.

But Stoltenberg's remarks on China echoed shifting concerns in the US, Nato's principle power by far.

Europe used to be the geopolitical centre of the world in Cold War times.

But even before the Russia-friendly US president Donald Trump had entered the White House, the US had said it was embarking on a "Pacific century", by reference to the Pacific Ocean between America and Asia.

For his part, Trump has reportedly decided to pull about 10,000 troops from Cold War-era German bases, underlining the point.

Stoltenberg declined to comment on "media leakages".

But he added: "This is not only about Germany".

"After the end of the Cold War, we saw the US gradually reducing its military presence in Europe. [But] over the last few years, we have actually seen an increase in the US presence in Europe again," he said, referring to the Russia-deterrent battalions in the Baltic area, as well as other US deployments in Poland, Romania, and Spain.

And amid the rise of China, Russia still posed a grave menace to Western security, Stoltenberg noted.

"We have seen a Russia being willing to use military force against neighbours," he said, referring to its attack on Ukraine and, earlier, Georgia.

"They [the Russians] are [also] deploying now a new missile called SSC-8, a missile which can reach European cities, [and] reduces the threshold for a potential use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict," the Nato head added.

Propaganda axis

Meanwhile, the new China-Russia axis, which Stoltenberg warned of, was highly active on the disinformation front, he noted.

They were both publishing "propaganda" to "try to divide us, to undermine trust in Nato countries," he said.

"We have seen both from Russia and China attempts to, in a way, blame Nato allies for the existence of the coronavirus," he added.

Western "open societies" and "free press" were robust enough to resist, Stoltenberg said.

"I believe that the truth will prevail," he said.

But in the new "global balance", not even the US could afford to go it alone, he added.

"Compared to China, even the United States is not the biggest [superpower]," any more, Stoltenberg said.

"Soon, China will have the biggest economy in the world. They are leading in investing in a lot of advanced technologies, including ... artificial intelligence, quantum computing," he noted.

"It's even more important that we stand together, North America and Europe together, because we cannot manage this alone," he said.

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