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NATO Chief Stoltenberg Says ‘Political Unity Matters’

June 16, 2021 by Kate Michael
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a joint session of Congress on April 3, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg outlined his vision for a renewed trans-Atlantic Alliance before the Brooking Institution earlier this month, declaring that the alliance will “seize the opportunity to keep our people safe in a more contested world.”

NATO’s 30-nation strategic international partnership has, at its heart, the common purpose of collective defense.

But at this pivotal moment for the alliance — he was speaking just ahead of this week’s NATO meeting — with the alliance in which it is ending its largest military operation in Afghanistan, Stoltenberg says it must step up its forum for trans-national negotiations as a “political-military alliance.”

“Strong militaries are important but strong societies are our first level of defense,” he said. “Our policy unity matters. We will never speak to all issues with one voice… there will always be differences. But I think it’s important that we stand together on the main messages.”

Stoltenberg’s plans for the summit include a development of NATO’s next strategic concept, NATO 2030. This is an initiative to recommit to the values and changing purpose of the Alliance, including a focus on climate change, encouraging trans-Atlantic innovation, increasing NATO’s common funded budget, and strengthening its commitment to the collective defense against all threats — including space and cyber.

Also for the first time, one of the summit’s main concerns will focus on China. As NATO reaffirms its role in upholding the rules-based international order, Stoltenberg admitted that there would need to be discussion around the challenges of authoritarian regimes like Russia and China. 

“NATO doesn’t see China as an adversary,” said Stoltenberg. “There are opportunities to negotiate trade, but we must be clear-eyed about the challenges China poses.”

“Beijing doesn’t share our values,” he said, citing China’s surveillance and control over its own people as well as the coercion of neighbors like Hong Kong and Taiwan. He suggested that the upcoming summit would include “much more language on China than we have ever had before.”

 “In the new strategic concept, China will be mentioned,” said Stoltenberg, confirming NATO’s shifting views on Beijing. 

“The first time [we ever] mentioned China in a NATO document was December 2019.” Now, the Alliance is concerning itself with the security consequences posed by the shifting balance of power, with China aiming for predominant military power by the end of the century.

“Conflict and instability in NATO’s neighborhoods directly affect [us],” said Stoltenberg. “NATO is even more important for the shifting balance of power. [And] for the U.S. to have 29 friends and allies in Europe and Canada is a great advantage.”

“NATO 2030 is about standing strong together,” said Stoltenberg. “Our security system is more complex …. than ever before. None of our countries can face these challenges alone. We stand together in NATO.”foe

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