Moscow and Beijing remain enemies of NATO
The London summit was the first forum in the history of the alliance, at which its participants discussed potential threats emanating from Beijing.
Last week in London hosted the 70th anniversary summit of NATO countries. During each of the meetings, the leaders of the alliance discussed many different issues, including the situation in the world, existing threats, directions for further development of the bloc. On the margins of the summit, bilateral meetings and negotiations of the participants were held and a final declaration was adopted.
The summit, which was held from December 3 to 4, was attended by the heads of 29 states and governments of the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance. The main issues discussed by the leaders of the NATO countries were issues of the need to increase defense spending and assess existing threats.
At the beginning of the final declaration, adopted at the end of the meeting and consisting of nine points, NATO members emphasized that they gathered in the city where the bloc’s first headquarters was located, “to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the strongest and most successful alliance in history” and “to mark the thirty-year the anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain”.
The Allies once again announced that NATO is the main instrument for ensuring the security of the territories and the one billion citizens living on them, state sovereignty and such common values as democracy, personal freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
“Solidarity, unity and cohesion are fundamental principles of our Alliance. Working together to prevent conflict and preserve peace, NATO remains the foundation of our collective defense and the main forum for consultation and decision-making by NATO countries on security issues,” statement said. They reaffirmed the inviolability of the link between Europe and North America, their commitment to the goals and principles of the UN and that an attack on any member of the union would be considered an attack on everyone else.
The bloc members said that in accordance with their commitments, they will increase their military budgets to 2% of GDP. As noted in the declaration, defense spending by NATO states, not counting the United States, has continued to increase over the past five years. According to the Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, in 2020, appropriations will increase by $ 130 billion compared to 2016, and by $ 400 billion in 2024.
The remainder of the document talks about threats to block members. Russia’s activity remains one of the main challenges for NATO. “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security,” the declaration says. The countries of the bloc intend in the future to take measures to protect their borders and reduce the nuclear danger from Moscow. “We are taking and will continue to carefully and responsibly take measures in response to the deployment of new medium-range missiles by Russia, which led to the termination of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) and pose significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” in the document. At the same time, the alliance is ready to interact with Russia. “We remain open for dialogue, as well as for constructive relations with Russia, when Russia’s actions make this possible,” the final statement says.
The declaration states that global terrorism is also a threat to the countries of the union. However, not all members of the alliance have so far reached a consensus on the question of which organizations should be considered terrorist.
Turkey insists that NATO countries recognize Kurdish formations in Syria as terrorists. Some other members of the bloc, in particular France, do not agree with this. The head of France, Emmanuel Macron, spoke about the need to fight terrorism more actively during talks with US President Donald Trump. He also criticized the operation in Turkey against the Syrian Kurds, which, in his opinion, plays into the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group (banned in Russia). For his part, Trump recognized the importance of the threat of terrorism and thanked Macron for his activity in the fight against radical extremism in Africa.
The London summit was the first forum in the history of the alliance, at which its participants discussed potential threats emanating from Beijing. “China has become very strong, much stronger than in the past,” said Donald Trump, responding to a question about the growing attention to China’s activity on the part of NATO. Trump said that the Celestial Empire was able to build up its power thanks to the illiterate policies of previous American leaders, but expressed the hope that he could conclude agreements with China in the trade sphere and in the field of arms control.
At a press conference following the summit, Stoltenberg said that the alliance members agreed to pursue a joint policy towards China. He also said that NATO would make every effort to engage Beijing in arms control negotiations, as the United States is seeking.
Although Russia and terrorism remain challenges for NATO, the alliance is prepared to repel the threat, no matter where it comes from. “We are adapting our military capabilities, strategy and plans throughout the Alliance in accordance with our approach to the all-round security review. We made decisions to increase the readiness of our forces to respond to any threat, at any time and in any direction,” the final document says.
Negotiations, divisions, and evaluations
On the sidelines of the summit, the heads of alliance countries held a series of bilateral meetings. In particular, a conversation between the presidents of the USA and France took place. During the talks, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron discussed the words recently spoken by the head of France about the “death of NATO’s brain.” In addition, the American leader touched on relations with Russia. The resident of the Oval Office said that the Russian and American sides “get along” among themselves, the same, according to him, should be done by the alliance. Macron, in turn, expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that Trump ordered the withdrawal of almost all American troops from Syria without any consultation with NATO allies.
On the sidelines of the anniversary meeting, talks were also held between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. In a joint communique, the parties welcomed the increase in defense spending by NATO member countries and agreed that there was a need for the alliance to be united in the face of new and evolving threats. In addition, at the meeting, the British Prime Minister told the American leader about the meeting between the leaders of France, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom to discuss the situation in Syria.
The final part of the summit was held on December 4 in the city of Watford. The leaders of the participating countries for three hours tried to resolve the differences between them. Opening the meeting, Jens Stoltenberg stated that no matter what the contradictions, the bloc members will remain fully united in solving their main task – to ensure the protection of a friend. He also emphasized that the principle of “one for all and all for one” remains unshakable for all member countries. Boris Johnson, in turn, called the meeting an opportunity to strengthen unity in the name of a common goal and take new steps necessary in the next 70 years to maintain peace on earth and ensure international security.
Summing up the meeting, the Alliance’s Secretary General emphasized that the NATO countries are now better prepared to promptly repel external attacks, have approved space as the fifth domain of combat activity, intend to build up technological capabilities to counter cyber attacks and hybrid threats, more equitably shared the financial burden and discussed “ challenges and opportunities ”associated with the growth of external threats and military capabilities of the main antagonists of the military alliance. At the same time, Stoltenberg did not say a word about the conflict in the Donbass, and did not even remember about Crimea. Speaking about Russia, the head of the bloc only stated the need for negotiations with the Kremlin on issues related to arms control.
Usually, at the NATO summits, immediately after the Secretary General, the US President held a press conference. However, Donald Trump canceled it after watching a video with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who, according to the head of the White House, incorrectly joked at him at a meeting of NATO leaders during a banquet in Buckingham Palace. At the same time, many other leaders still answered questions from journalists. Among other things, statements were made about the Russian Federation. Boris Johnson said that there was a good discussion concerning Russia about the need to collectively respond to its actions, fear its aggressiveness and unpredictability, but at the same time fully cooperate with Moscow. As an example, he mentioned the alliance’s unified approach to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Western countries after the poisoning in Salisbury of ex-GRU colonel Sergei Skripal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at her press conference also said that Russia is the main threat to the alliance. She also emphasized that, on the one hand, the Kremlin is known for hostile measures against the NATO countries, such as conducting a hybrid war, and, on the other hand, Russia is the closest neighbor to a number of European states. And Emmanuel Macron called on the members of the bloc to rethink relations with Russia, in particular, to begin a substantive dialogue on arms control. With this, he confirmed his reputation as a statesman who advocated dialogue with Moscow.
Meanwhile, in their speeches after the summit, its participants one way or another constantly returned to the topic of unity of the alliance. At the end of the press conference, Jens Stoltenberg said that on most issues, the NATO member countries agree with each other, but sometimes there are some differences between them. He also noted that the meeting was held in a businesslike and very friendly atmosphere. It was extremely constructive and productive. Many important decisions were made. One of its results was the coordination and approval of an updated defense plan for the Baltic countries and Poland.
Reaction of Russia
Two days after the London meeting ended on December 6, Russian Ambassador to Great Britain Andrei Kelin, in an interview with Russia-24 TV channel, noted that the summit participants once again confirmed their double approach to relations with the Russian Federation. “As for Russia, here, as before, the policy of a double approach was confirmed. This policy is generally many, many years old, it must be said: military pressure and the maintenance of dialogue. There is very little dialogue, but there is a lot of military pressure,” the ambassador said.
According to Kelin, Russia still has not received a response from the US and Europe on the proposal to introduce a moratorium on the deployment of medium and short-range missiles. “Neither readiness to study this, nor enter into serious negotiations. I would not say that I dismissed this proposal. But now, when there was a very opportune moment for this to seriously engage in dialogue, this, unfortunately, did not happen,” Kelin emphasized.
He noted that the focus of the NATO summit this year was determined by an attempt to smooth out the contradictions between the countries – members of the alliance. “Although the day before the summit, a conference was held here, where all these contradictions were exaggerated,” Kelin added.
In September, it became known that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent leaders of several countries, including NATO members, a proposal to introduce a moratorium on the deployment of INF arms in Europe and other regions. Such messages were also sent to a number of non-NATO states, including China. However, as representatives of the alliance and America noted, they see no reason in a moratorium, since Russia has allegedly already deployed medium-range missiles on its territory. In early November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that NATO did not want to respond to the Russian initiative.
Head of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation Sergey Shoigu on the air of the program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin ”on the channel“ Russia 1 ”said that the interaction between Russia and NATO has not only been stopped, but every year it is more and more degraded.
The minister recalled that “about five years ago” Moscow had active cooperation with the military bloc, there was a representative in NATO. “And now all this is not only stopped, but is degrading every year,” Shoigu emphasized. He explained that the US is withdrawing from the agreements and “the security space is getting narrower and narrower.”
At the same time, Moscow wants to continue cooperation, the general is sure. As an example, he called the proposal of the Russian Federation to cooperate with the international coalition against terrorism in Syria.
Some Russian experts believe that the position of the bloc’s members agreed at the London summit rather simply confirms the alliance’s existing course of action than moves it in the direction that the countries of the world need. 70 years, even by historical standards, is a considerable age for a coalition of states, and although the international situation and many other factors have changed significantly over the years, the need for NATO, from the point of view of its members, continues to remain relevant. Russia sees NATO as the rudiment of the Cold War, and the alliance believes that they manage to adapt well to new challenges. But the process of adaptation is complex and does not have a final point, as circumstances both outside and inside NATO continue to change. Jens Stoltenberg, who plans to remain in this position until 2022, was instructed by the bloc leaders to think over and organize a discussion on strengthening the political installations of NATO, which, along with the purely military, play an important role in the functioning of the alliance.
Nevertheless, NATO remains the military bloc focused on countering a variety of threats with the leading role of the United States. Washington has no doubt that China will be its key rival in the coming decades and that both the alliance and the EU need to develop a coherent policy towards Beijing. But in practice this proves to be an extremely difficult task.
NATO leaders have so far agreed with the non-binding thesis that the rise of China creates both challenges and opportunities. Somewhat similar, but in a more severe form, the theme of Russia also sounds. Known complaints remain to her, but dialogue and interaction are recognized as desirable.
Conciliatory remarks were made both by the US president and in the declaration of the leaders of the alliance on nuclear stability. Contrary to the forecasts of radical politicians, Trump does not seem to exclude the possibility of extending the current START-3 treaty on strategic arms reduction. This is fundamentally important not only in itself, but also from the point of view of the fate of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Despite all the contradictions, the preservation of safety mechanisms that prevent a nuclear race is one of the key tasks. Washington and Moscow have to seriously work on this task, and the result of its solution will definitely affect the mood in NATO.