BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – US President Joe Biden on Monday (June 14) told fellow Nato leaders that the defence of Europe, Turkey and Canada was a “sacred obligation” for the United States, a marked shift from his predecessor Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw from the military alliance.
Arriving in Brussels, Mr Biden sought to rally Western allies to support a US strategy to contain China’s military rise as well as show unity in the face of Russian aggression.
“Article Five is a sacred obligation,” Mr Biden said, referring to the transatlantic alliance’s collective defence pledge. “I want all Europe to know that the United States is there… Nato is critically important to us.”
Mr Biden is seeking to mend ties after Mr Trump’s denigration of the nuclear-armed alliance over the past four years.
Allies were on Monday set to brand China a security risk to Nato for the first time, a day after the Group of Seven (G-7) rich nations issued a statement on human rights in China that Beijing said slandered its reputation.
The Western alliance will formally denounce China’s behaviour as a “systemic challenge” in its final summit statement.
“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” Nato leaders were set to say in a 79-point communique.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China’s growing military presence meant Nato had to be prepared.
“China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see China in Africa, but we also see China investing heavily in our own critical infrastructure,” he said, a reference to ports and telecoms networks.
Mr Biden said both Russia and China were not acting “in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped”, referring to Western efforts since the mid-1990s to bring both countries into the fold of liberal democracies.
Allied leaders are concerned about Moscow’s recent military build-up near Ukraine, as well as its cyberattacks to undermine Western states. Mr Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Tuesday.
In another first for Nato, the alliance was set to agree on a climate action plan to mitigate climate change, which is seen as a threat multiplier that impacts the grouping’s security.
Nato will increase its awareness, adaptation, mitigation, and outreach efforts related to climate change, allied leaders will say in the communique.
It will also incorporate climate change considerations into its full spectrum of work, ranging from defence planning and capability development to civil preparedness and exercises.
Separately, senior Western officials said security officials under Nato command had approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
After two decades of war, forces from 36 countries involved in Nato’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan are set to pull out of the country in coordination with a US troop withdrawal by Sept 11.
“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said one senior Western security official in Kabul, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with journalists.