Transatlantic unity holds the key to managing threats from both Russia and China, according to NATO’s civilian chief.
“As long as we stand together, we can deal with both a rising China and an assertive and aggressive Russia,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday alongside U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “That’s exactly the reason why we have NATO.”
Stoltenberg’s comments signal a heightening consciousness among American allies that the U.S. rivalry with China could require European powers to reorient their foreign policies. And a similar sensibility is emerging in Beijing. Just as the NATO allies prepare for an in-person convocation, Chinese officials hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss their own potential alignment against Western powers.
“We share the opinion that Russian-Chinese foreign policy interaction remains a vital factor in global affairs,” Lavrov said Tuesday following a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “We pointed out the destructive character of U.S. aspiration to undermine the U.N.-centric international legal framework by using the military-political alliances of the Cold War period and creating similar closed alliances.”
Stoltenberg has touted the potential for European allies to strengthen their respective relationships with the United States in recent years, in part to demonstrate to Washington the value of NATO. However, that was often complicated by former President Donald Trump and his “America first” governing style.
“So, for [the] United States to have NATO means that they have something no other big power has, and that’s … 29 friends and allies,” Stoltenberg reiterated Tuesday. “So we need to demonstrate that we continue to provide our core responsibility, collective defense, security for all our allies, and then I’m very optimistic that we’ll also be able to deal with differences also in the future.”
Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping’s lieutenants have aired a frank rejection of U.S. and European claims to uphold international law, an argument made more explicit as Western allies rebuke Beijing for subjecting Uyghur Muslims to atrocities in Xinjiang.
“The United States itself does not represent international public opinion, and neither does the Western world,” Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi told Blinken last week during a meeting in Alaska. “So we hope that when talking about universal values or international public opinion on the part of the United States, we hope the U.S. side will think about whether it feels reassured in saying those things because the U.S. does not represent the world.”
Lavrov’s counterpart fumed about a new battery of transatlantic sanctions on the Chinese officials overseeing the abuse of Uyghur Muslims. “[Western powers] should know that the days when they can arbitrarily interfere in China’s internal affairs by making up stories and lies are long gone,” Wang said.
Blinken joined Stoltenberg in touting NATO’s potential to counter this emerging Chinese posture.
“We will stand resolutely against Russian aggression and other actions that try to undermine our alliance, and I think that approach is exactly where NATO is as well,” Blinken said. “And similarly, we have to and we will, I believe, make sure that NATO is also focused on some of the challenges that China poses to the rules-based international order.”