‘Newly assertive’ Russia and ‘rise’ of China pose biggest security threats to West, says NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was speaking at a news conference where he presented his annual report for the last 12 months.
Jens Stoltenberg

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

17 Mar 2021

Stoltenberg told reporters, “We must also be wary of the rising threat from authoritarian powers. We see a more assertive Russia which has been responsible for cyberattacks against NATO allies and attempted to meddle in domestic [political] processes.”

Both China and Russia, he said, are now working more closely together, including militarily, adding that such issues “defines the challenges facing NATO.”

Speaking from NATO’s Brussels HQ on Tuesday, the official said the pandemic has not affected NATO’s “ability to defend our allies and this remains undiminished. We remain ready and vigilant.”

The Norwegian also said that despite the economic impact of the crisis, 2020 witnessed the “6th successive year of increased defence spending” by NATO members.

Spending, he said, had increased by 3.9 percent, adding, “this is trend is expected to continue this year.”

Since 2014, there has been a rise in defence spending in all NATO countries and Stoltenberg said he welcomes “this stable and steady rise.”

“In a year of upheaval, overall support for the NATO Alliance, the transatlantic bond and collective defence remains strong” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General

In the past, former US President Donald Trump heavily criticised many NATO members for allegedly not paying enough to support the Alliance.

But Stoltenberg said, “This increase in spending is vital because the security challenges have not gone away.”

Stoltenberg also cited a survey which, he said, showed that some 62 percent of citizens in NATO countries would vote to remain in the alliance.

“Only 11 percent voted against while most believe that NATO membership makes an attack by a foreign nation less likely.”

The results of new polls on the public perception of the Alliance, he said, “show that, in a year of upheaval, overall support for the NATO Alliance, the transatlantic bond and collective defence remains strong.”

“There is strong support for NATO but we must deliver on our core promise: to protect and defend our populations.”

“We must be wary of the rising threat from authoritarian powers. We see a more assertive Russia which has been responsible for cyberattacks against NATO allies and attempted to meddle in domestic [political] processes”

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General

He singled out Russia’s “destabilising behaviour” and the “rise of China” as two clear threats, along with cyberattacks and the “continuing threat” posed by terrorism.

He said, “No one country can tackle these alone which is why NATO and Europe must work closer together.”

He told reporters he hopes, with a new incumbent in the White House, that transatlantic relations will improve, adding, “I welcome President Biden’s clear commitment to rebuild alliances and his recommitment to NATO.”

The new US presidency was, he said, “a chance to open up a new chapter [in transatlantic relations] and we must seize it.”

On future EU and NATO relations, he admitted that “we can do more together.”

He said, “We complement and support each other but there is huge potential to do more together, for example, on climate change.”

He also praised the UK which, despite Brexit, continues to be a “leading” NATO member, “providing important capabilities to NATO on land, sea and in the air.”

“The UK will continue to provide key capabilities and I know NATO can count on the UK which, remember, is the second biggest contributor to the [NATO] budget.”

The annual report for 2020 covers NATO’s work and achievements throughout the year, including its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that the health crisis did not become a security crisis.

The report says, “In 2020, NATO worked to help save lives and keep its people safe and supported in the civilian response to the pandemic. At the same time, it continued to deter aggression, defend all Allies against any threat, and project stability beyond NATO’s borders.”

“Under the NATO 2030 initiative, work has been ongoing to make NATO even stronger in an unpredictable world.”

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