NATO to consider Russia a threat and China a "strategic challenge"
The strategic Concept paper is expected to set the tone of NATO vis-à-vis the rising powers in the international world.
When it releases its new policy guidelines this week, NATO is expected to refer to China as a "systemic challenge" and underscore Beijing's expanding ties with Russia, as expressed by sources familiar with the matter. The so-called Strategic Concept paper, which will set the alliance's goals for the next 10 years, will be approved by NATO leaders this week at a summit in Madrid. In the earlier edition, released in 2010, China was not mentioned, and Russia was referred to as a partner, however, this terminology will now be scrapped.
The sources, which preferred to remain anonymous, said that the allies will not call China an adversary, however, the document will note concerns pertaining to alleged Chinese practices such as cybersecurity and disinformation, as well as control of critical infrastructure and compliance with the "rules-based international order."
The wording has been difficult to agree upon amongst the NATO allies, especially since the US has been seeking to take a tough stance while Germany, a country that has extensive economic and trade ties with China, has been seeking a more moderate lexicon.
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Before leaders sign it, the text is still being negotiated and is susceptible to modification. China routinely accuses the US of attempting to create blocs to restrain its economic expansion. Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Washington, in March, against attempting to establish a NATO-like alliance in the Indo-Pacific, claiming the aim was "to maintain the US-led system of hegemony."
Allies could decide to keep communication with China open, said the sources. On the other hand, Russia is set to be called a “direct threat” to NATO’s security and any modification in relations would be contingent on Moscow discontinuing its aggressive behavior and complying with international law, as NATO would perceive it.
“The meaningful dialog we worked for so many years, that’s not on the table, that’s not working simply because of Russia’s behavior -- they have chosen confrontation over dialog,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Monday. “We regret that but of course, we need to respond to that reality.”
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Mary Elise Sarotte, professor of historical studies at SAIS Johns Hopkins University and author of "Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate," believes the connection is unlikely to be repaired anytime soon.
“It seems clear that NATO and Russia are indeed headed for Cold War-style relations for an extended period,” Sarotte said. The professor added that Putin isn't attempting to bring back Communism, and the world wouldn't be as divided as it was throughout the 20th century, so there would be changes.
Allies see a growing pattern between the two and feel the need to start addressing it in light of Russia and China's pledge of a "no limits partnership." However, this remains from a NATO perspective ignoring all concerns for both China and Russia on the economic, social, military, and political levels.