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NATO chief seeks costs on China over Russia support

NATO’s chief called Monday for China to face consequences if it keeps up support to Russia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2024
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File SIMON WOHLFAHRT
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2024 - Copyright AFP/File SIMON WOHLFAHRT
Shaun TANDON

NATO’s chief called Monday for China to face consequences if it keeps up support to Russia, as he said that a steady flow of weapons to Ukraine was the only way to end the war.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was paying a visit to Washington to lay the groundwork for NATO’s 75th anniversary summit next month.

The July gathering aims to send a decisive long-term message of support for Ukraine as President Joe Biden faces a tough reelection fight against Donald Trump, a skeptic of Western support for Kyiv.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Biden, Stoltenberg accused China of worsening the conflict through what US officials say is a major export push to rebuild Russia’s defense industry.

President Xi Jinping “has tried to create the impression that he is taking a back seat in this conflict, to avoid sanctions and keep trade flowing,” Stoltenberg said at the Wilson Center.

“But the reality is that China is fueling the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, and at the same time, it wants to maintain good relations with the West,” he said.

“Beijing cannot have it both ways. At some point — and unless China changes course — allies need to impose a cost. There should be consequences.”

In addition to the 32 members of the NATO alliance, the summit will also bring in four key partners from the Asia-Pacific: Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

China argues that it is not sending lethal assistance to either side — unlike the United States and other Western nations.

Stoltenberg said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit this week to North Korea, which has supplied shells to Moscow despite being under UN sanctions, further showed how Moscow was “dependent” on authoritarian leaders.

Beijing steered clear of a weekend summit in Switzerland promoted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that reaffirmed Kyiv’s demands for Russia to leave Ukrainian territory for any peace.

Russia has insisted that it is interested in talks, but has demanded Ukrainian forces withdraw from territory seized by Moscow.

– ‘Trump-proof’ alliance –

Trump — who in the past has voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin — has boasted that he can quickly end the war, likely by pressing Ukraine to accept demands.

In an unstated effort to “Trump-proof” future efforts, Stoltenberg wants the Washington summit both to put NATO in the lead of coordination on Ukraine and to set up a way for long-term military funding.

“The more credible our long-term support, the quicker Moscow will realize it cannot wait us out,” he said.

“It may seem like a paradox, but the path to peace is more weapons for Ukraine.”

The US Congress in April approved some $60 billion in new military funding for Ukraine but only after months of political fighting and opposition by some of Trump’s Republican allies.

“Regardless of who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” Stoltenberg told reporters of the delay, “I believe that we should minimize the risk.”

Stoltenberg said he would also tell Biden of the rising number of NATO members that are meeting a goal set in 2014 of spending two percent of GDP on defense.

Trump has long raged over what he sees as unfairness in the alliance founded in the Cold War.

On the campaign trail, he has suggested that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that does not “pay (its) bills.”

Asked about Trump’s criticism, Stoltenberg, who led NATO throughout the mogul’s 2017-2021 presidency, said that successive US administrations had “an absolutely valid point to say that European allies are spending too little.”

“The good news is that’s changing,” Stoltenberg said.

“We’re not saying that we are satisfied, but we are in a totally different place now than we were back in 2014.”

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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