Relations with Russia at ‘lowest point’ in many years, says NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg

Comments come as US President Joe Biden flies in to Brussels for ‘pivotal’ Alliance summit.
Press association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

14 Jun 2021

Relations between the West and Russia are at their “lowest point” in many years, according to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

He was speaking as he arrived at NATO HQ in Brussels for a key meeting with US President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders.

Stoltenberg told reporters, “The relationship between NATO and Russia is at a low point, the lowest point since the end of the Cold War,”

He also voiced concern about China’s “military build up, growing influence and coercive behaviour” which, he said, “also poses a challenge.”

Leaders from the G7 on Sunday also criticised China for its human rights abuses and unfair economic practices and, in a joint statement, said, “We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong,”

At a brief press conference, Stoltenberg said the NATO meeting comes at a “pivotal moment” for the alliance, adding that he hopes it will agree “an ambitious agenda on reinforcing our defence and sharpen our technological edge.”

Climate change and security will also be on the agenda, he said. The NATO summit is also likely to discuss security issues in space and cyberspace.

“The relationship between NATO and Russia is at a low point, the lowest point since the end of the Cold War” NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg warned, “But we must also resource what is our high level of ambition so we need to invest more.”He added that there had been seven consecutive years where defence spending had increased which had added an extra $260bn.

“I am certain that the decisions we make today will send a strong message of unity and resolve.”

Biden, on his first foreign trip as president, flew in to Belgium on Sunday from Britain, where he attended the G7 summit, and was welcomed by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

Brussels has launched a major security operation to ensure the safety of Biden and the leaders of the 28 other NATO members states arriving for the summit.

After a three-hour meeting Monday afternoon, NATO leaders are due to launch a joint statement. Biden is expected to also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the main NATO meeting.

On Tuesday, Biden is due to attend the EU- US summit. He will have talks with European Council president Charles Michel and the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

But Biden will not take part in a joint news conference with them, leaving the Belgian capital for Geneva early in the afternoon for a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

“The transatlantic link is a bedrock of the international rules-based system that ushered the world into an era of peace and prosperity after WWII. This relationship was undermined by the unilateralist and isolationist tendencies of the Trump administration” Croatian Socialist MEP Tonino Picula

Looking ahead to the visit, Radosław Sikorski MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the USA, told this site, “Let us give a warm welcome to Joe Biden, a noble man and an ally who can be relied upon.”

“We do not need to agree on everything, but we can do things together. Jointly, we must strengthen our democracies including through sensible regulation of social media, completing the deal to eliminate tax havens and developing a common position on China”.

On the meeting between Biden and Putin, Sikorski called on the US president: “Please tell him from us that if he blackmails countries by gas, NordStream sanctions will return. If he attacks a neighbour again, we will respond by deeds, not just words. And every time he, or Lukashenko, murders or kidnaps an opponent in the West, we will double our assistance to Russian or Belarussian opponents”.

Further comment comes from Croatian Socialist MEP Tonino Picula, the parliament’s rapporteur on the US and the S&D Group’s spokesperson on foreign affairs and EU-US relations.

He said, “The transatlantic link is a bedrock of the international rules-based system that ushered the world into an era of peace and prosperity after WWII. This relationship was undermined by the unilateralist and isolationist tendencies of the Trump administration.”

“We have to seek to redefine our relationship on an equal footing and take greater responsibility. Challenges remain - in trade, approaches to Russia and China and other areas, agriculture, and data protection, especially after recent revelations.”

“Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the political will from Washington to tackle our differences in a constructive manner and focus on a constructive common agenda”

Greens/EFA Group co leader Philippe Lamberts called for EU governments and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to “stop blocking a temporary suspension of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and support US President Joe Biden, South Africa and India."

Meanwhile, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has released a report which calls on the EU and US to “embrace” the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force this January.

Tim Wright, ICAN’s treaty coordinator and co-author of the report, said, “The growing tide of political support for the new UN treaty in many NATO states, and the mounting public pressure for action, suggests that it is only a matter of time before one or more of these states take steps towards joining. Ultimately, governments are accountable to their citizens and cannot indefinitely ignore the democratic will.”

Ian Bond, Centre for European Reform director of foreign policy, gave his assessment of the summit, saying, “Biden is America’s most Atlanticist president since Bill Clinton. Europe and the US will not see eye-to-eye on everything, but they should not waste this chance to strengthen their partnership.”

Read the most recent articles written by Martin Banks - New EU regulations on AI seek to ban mass and indiscriminate surveillance

Share this page