NATO allies call China a 'decisive enabler' of Russia's war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — (AP) — In their most serious rebuke against Beijing, NATO allies on Wednesday called China a "decisive enabler" of Russia's war against Ukraine and expressed concerns over Beijing's nuclear arsenal and its capabilities in space.

The sternly worded final communiqué, approved by the 32 NATO members at their summit in Washington, makes clear that China is becoming a focus of the military alliance. The European and North American members and their partners in the Indo-Pacific increasingly see shared security concerns coming from Russia and its Asian supporters, especially China.

Beijing insists that it does not provide direct military aid to Russia but has maintained strong trade ties with its northern neighbor throughout the conflict.

In the communiqué, NATO member countries said China has become a war enabler through its "no-limits partnership" with Russia and its large-scale support for Russia's defense industrial base.

“This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbors and to Euro-Atlantic security. We call on the PRC, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with a particular responsibility to uphold the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, to cease all material and political support to Russia’s war effort,” read the communiqué, which referred to China by the abbreviation of its official name, the People's Republic of China.

“The PRC cannot enable the largest war in Europe in recent history without this negatively impacting its interests and reputation,” the document says.

Beijing has expressed displeasure at NATO's growing interest in Asia and has demanded the alliance stay out of the Asia-Pacific region and not incite confrontation.

“NATO should not use China to justify its insertion into the Asia-Pacific and attempt to disrupt regional dynamics,” Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Tuesday. “China is a force for world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of international order.”

Danny Russel, a former assistant secretary of state for Asia, called the new wording by NATO "an extraordinary step," particularly because it was coupled with the warning that Beijing continues to pose “systemic challenges” to European interests and security.

“It is a mark of how badly Beijing’s attempt to straddle Russia and Western Europe has failed and how hollow its claim of neutrality rings,” said Russel, who is vice president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “China’s attempts at divide-and-conquer have instead produced remarkable solidarity between key nations of the Euro-Atlantic and the Asia-Pacific regions.”

Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the statement is “highly significant” because it signals to China that Europe, just like the U.S., also condemns support to Russia.

“The U.S. believes that Europe has influence in Beijing, and that while China will not pay any attention to U.S. condemnation, they will pay attention to European condemnation because just because Europe trades with China, China also trades with Europe,” Bergmann said.

In this year's final declaration, NATO member countries reiterated their concerns that China poses “systemic challenges” to Euro-Atlantic security. It was first raised in 2021.

The alliance said China has been behind sustained, malicious cyber and hybrid activities, including disinformation and expressed concerns over China’s space capabilities and activities. It also raised alarms that China is rapidly expanding and diversifying its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems.

In Washington, where leaders of NATO nations are convening this week to mark the coalition's 75th anniversary, President Joe Biden said the alliance must not fall behind Russia, which is ramping up weapon production with the help of China, North Korea and Iran.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China provides equipment, microelectronics and tools that are “enabling Russia to build the missiles, to build the bombs, to build the aircraft, to build the weapons they use to attack Ukraine.”

He said it was the first time all NATO allies have stated this so clearly in an agreed document.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea have sent their leaders or deputies to the NATO summit in Washington this week. They are partners, not members, of the alliance.

In the final declaration, NATO members affirmed the importance of the Indo-Pacific partners to the alliance and said they were “strengthening dialogue to tackle cross-regional challenges.”

NATO and the Indo-Pacific partners plan to launch four projects to support Ukraine, bolster cooperation on cyberdefense, counter disinformation and work on artificial intelligence. The NATO members said these projects would “enhance our ability to work together on shared security interests.”

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