European NATO member countries harden their stance on China
The European members of NATO will commit to adopting a firmer position with regard to China, but the will of the Anglo-Saxons to place Beijing in the crosshairs of the alliance still raises doubts.
NATO members took a more moderate approach last year, mitigating the need to focus too intensely on China. However, a recent NATO survey covering all member states found that Beijing was seen as a security threat by 52% of respondents, an increase of 11 percentage points from 2021.
As the alliance is about to adopt a new strategy for the next decade, the strategic concept, it should designate China as a “security challenge”after not having mentioned it in previous documents.
While most Eastern European members, such as Poland, stress that Russia and the collective defense of the eastern flank should be NATO’s central task, they have recently taken a tougher stance towards Beijing.
“It is essential to monitor China’s activities, especially in cyberspace, new technologies and supply chains. These areas require attention not only from an economic perspective, but also from a security perspective.”Jakub Fajnor of the Czech Ministry of Defense told EURACTIV Czech Republic.
“If China represents a different type of challenge to NATO than Russia, it is necessary to take this challenge into account in the future direction of the Alliance”he added.
The Czech Ministry of Defense sees collective defense as NATO’s priority, with crisis management and cooperative security being prerequisites.
Mr Fajnor added that the Czech Republic considers a strong transatlantic link, cooperation with the EU, defense funding and, in particular, investment in the modernization of the armed forces to be essential conditions for accomplishment of these tasks.
Czech security expert Petr Boháček of the International Affairs Association stressed the need for a balanced approach within NATO regarding Russian and Chinese threats.
“Without the war in Ukraine, China would be NATO’s main challenge in its next strategic concept. However, the two countries represent a shared threat to several degrees.Boháček told EURACTIV Czech Republic.
“China serves as a catalyst for Russian aggression, mitigates attempts at diplomatic and economic isolation, and provides protective power over Moscow through which it can garner support from other countries outside the West”did he declare.
He added that while Russia is the main threat to Europe, the threat from China hangs over the United States. For the alliance to remain strong, united and mutually beneficial, a balance is necessary.
The Slovak Ministry of Defense agreed, adding that China has “implications” for the security of the Euro-Atlantic area, particularly in terms of supply chain reliability and investments in critical infrastructure.
“It is in NATO’s interest to engage constructively with China while preserving the unity of allies, in order to protect the interests of the alliance”he added, referring to Beijing’s growing political and economic influence in parts of Europe.
This week, NATO members will also seek to improve their cooperation with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, which will attend the summit as “partners” to discuss security in the Asia-Pacific region.
Strengthening Europe’s security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the promise to increase defense spending “will also make them better partners for security cooperation with Asia”Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said at the recent Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense said in remarks to EURACTIV: “At this time, we do not foresee a direct (e.g. kinetic) military threat from China, but we are following China’s rapid military development with concern. »
They added that caution should be exercised in the face of the country’s increased military expansion and its increasingly assertive posture in the Indo-Pacific region.
The hardening of the position of NATO and the EU mirrors a similar trend in Germany and France.
“The French government’s approach to China is one of risk reduction, especially when it comes to technology transfers and direct investments abroad”Mathieu Duchâtel, director of the Asia program at Institut Montaigne, told EURACTIV France.
“France‘s position has never been made public, but it has considerable economic interests in the Indo-Pacific region, including protecting the sovereign integrity of its exclusive economic zones”he added.
However, more dubious voices warn that America’s European allies largely project their perception of the threat onto the Europeans.
Sources close to the Greek Ministry of Defense believe that NATO should follow the American policy towards Beijing, accompanied by an increase in defense spending and the creation of a wall similar to that of the ” cold War “ vis-à-vis China and Russia.
According to a retired Greek officer who wished to remain anonymous, Europe, including Greece, would thus be locked in the way of Anglo-Saxon interests, increasing its dependence on the United States and the Britain.
“NATO is the Anglo-Saxon axis and has nothing more to offer the EU”he added.
In Spain, “the priority is not China or even Russia”Mario Esteban, a researcher at the Elcano Institute, told EuroEFE, adding that Beijing is not a “existential threat” for Europe and NATO, as former US President Donald Trump said.
“What worries the United States most about China is the implications (of Beijing’s policy) for the security of East Asia as a whole, and the threats it may face. “American hegemony in the world”did he declare.
“We are focusing more on issues such as terrorist threats and the pressure of migratory flows which are linked to our geographical position, very close to North Africa and the Maghreb”he said of Spain’s perception of the threat and hinted that Madrid are unlikely to be particularly proactive on China.
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