Jens Stoltenberg, the chief of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has urged liked-minded nations to join the military alliance in a bid to contain ‘bullying and coercion’ by China.
Stoltenberg also said that the global pandemic had magnified existing tensions and trends in regards to its security and urged for a more global approach from the group.
The remarks by Stoltenberg reflect how China has been rising up the agenda of the alliance set up in 1949 as a bulwark to the Soviet Union. The comments follow the rhetoric set by Donald Trump of taking a tougher stance on China.
Speaking at an event hosted by two think-tanks, the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Stoltenberg said that Beijing’s rise is shifting the global balance of power, heating up the race for economic and technological supremacy, multiplying the threats to open societies and individual freedoms, and increasing the competition over the alliance members’ way of life.
Stoltenberg, the former Prime Minister of Norway, warned of increased Chinese footprint in cyberspace, Arctic, Africa and also increased collusion between China and Russia and the security implications it has on NATO allies.
While insisting that Beijing was not a ‘new enemy’ for NATO, he pointed out that the alliance did agree to discuss the rise of China for the first time in December, including its development of missiles that could reach countries allied to NATO.
Alarm bells went off in NATO earlier this week after Donald Trump announced that he would pull out 10,000 American troops from Germany. The NATO chief has since downplayed the reports. Berlin says that it has received no official confirmation from the US.
China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has intensified existing tensions with countries inside and outside the alliance. The UK, in its security review, announced that it would be re-evaluating trade ties with Beijing in the light of the pandemic.
Jeremy Fleming, director of the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ, said last week that the pandemic had put China’s rise “front and centre” in people’s minds.
Stoltenberg concluded the event by saying that NATO needed to work ‘even more closely’ with countries such as Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Japan to protect global institutions and set norms for outer space, cyberspace and global arms control. He added that together they should stand up for a world built on freedom and democracy and not bullying and coercion.
The existence of NATO has come into question after President Donald Trump labelled it ‘obsolete’ while French Present Emmanuel Macron labelled it as ‘brain dead’. Trump has often lambasted alliance members for not spending enough on the military budget of the alliance thus leaving the US to foot the bill.