The President of the United States, Joe Biden, has succeeded in adding a military dimension to the international coalition he intends to put in place to face the assertive China of Xi Jinping.
After securing a stronger statement against the Communist dictatorship at the G7 meeting in the UK, the American worked to get NATO, a military alliance founded in 1949 to contain the Soviet Union, to identify Beijing as a risk to the security interests of the club.
In the statement to be released on Monday (14) after the organization’s first summit in which Biden attended as president, however, Russia continues to be the protagonist of Western concerns.
The country of Vladimir Putin, whom Biden will meet in Geneva on Wednesday (6), is perceived as a “threat” in the 45-page text. The West’s relations with Moscow are the worst since the Cold War.
But China is mentioned several times in the text, leaked to the press, as a country which “presents challenges”.
“China’s ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and areas relevant to the security of the alliance,” the text said.
In it, Chinese naval and nuclear development is something to watch closely, as is their military proximity to Moscow. Xi and Putin have had an informal alliance for years, and it has grown stronger with Biden’s rise to power.
Sunday’s document from the G7, the club of most developed nations (13), which listed repression in Hong Kong and Muslims in China, was called libelous by the Chinese embassy in London.
The Democrat wants to repair the damage left by Donald Trump in the transatlantic relationship with his Western partners. At the 2019 summit, when NATO turned 70, the Republican left the meeting after a video leaked in which other leaders made fun of him.
Trump’s four years in the White House saw the president even threatening to leave the alliance if there wasn’t an increase in partners’ military spending. NATO is aiming for a military spending target of 2% of the gross domestic product of its 30 members by 2024.
Today, only the USA and 10 other countries meet the target. Six of these other nations are countries that were part of the Soviet-led Communist bloc until 1991, when the Moscow Empire collapsed.
Indeed, they belong to the group that most fears the renewed aggressiveness of Putin’s Russia. In 2014, when the Kremlin annexed Crimea and waged a civil war in eastern Ukraine to prevent the new Kiev government from joining NATO, only three alliance countries spent more than 2% of their GDP for defense: the United States, the United Kingdom and Greece.
In the case of Athens, however, the quality of the composition of its military budget is low: in 2020, 75% of it was spent on personnel, a rate similar to that of Brazil (79%). In the United States, which has the greatest military power on the planet, the rate is 37.5%.
Overall, the perception that Russia was a threat, already felt in the war that prevented Georgia from joining NATO in 2008, in Ukraine and even with its intervention to save the Syrian dictatorship in 2015, has changed the scenario. .
In 2014, only 6 of NATO’s 30 members spent 20% or more of their military budget on equipment, the alliance’s gold standard. In 2020, there are 18.
Putin has already said what his priority is: preventing NATO forces from approaching his territory and, preferably, re-establishing buffer zones such as the Allied dictatorship in Belarus and the burning of Ukraine. In 1949, NATO’s initial borders were 2,000 km from Moscow; they are now 800 km away.
China has been mentioned as a potential adversary by NATO for a few years now, but never with such force. This is a victory for Biden and it displeases some members of the alliance, like Hungary and Poland, who want good relations with Beijing.
The Poles are perhaps the most effective members of NATO in the east, and the most suspicious of Putin – the former Soviet republics, the Baltic states are too, but they depend on the alliance to defend themselves and they have nuances in their relations with Moscow because of that to the large ethnic Russian populations in their territories.
Besides the United States, which inaugurated Cold War 2.0 against Xi under Trump in 2017, extended so far by Biden, France also has some points of contention with the Chinese, especially regarding its influence over its former colonies in Africa. .
Paris maintains a major military operation aimed at containing terrorism throughout the area known as the Sahel.
On the other hand, President Emmanuel Macron has maintained an open line of dialogue with Putin, as has German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In both cases, business speaks louder: the French are exploring gas in the Russian Arctic in competition with Beijing, and Berlin is banking on the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to increase its consumption of Russian product.
Hence the fear that in the long term economic pragmatism will overlap. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky on Monday criticized Biden for meeting Putin first and not him, despite his pledge of support when Russia concentrated its troops at its borders in April.
At a press conference, Zelenski said he was ready to join NATO and expected a clear position from the United States on it. It’s difficult: club rules do not allow countries with active territorial disputes to participate.
He also said it was “inevitable” that he will meet with Putin soon to discuss the issue of the eastern part of his country, controlled by a pro-Russian force in a conflict that has already claimed 14,000 lives.
With this, the NATO summit merges, politically, with the G7 meeting and the Biden-Putin meeting on Wednesday in an attempt by the American to shape his multifaceted foreign policy. As Zelensky’s lament makes clear, there’s no way to please everyone in the process.
Biden attempted to calm his partners in the east with a separate conversation with Polish President Andrzej Duda, and appears to have opened up a personal channel with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the autocratic Turkish leader, who is falling out with the American partners and the NATO for years. .
Another controversial issue debated on Monday was NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, after Biden gave until September 11 this year for the United States to leave the invaded country in 2001. The deterioration of security in the face of Taliban return is clear.
NATO has nearly 7,000 troops in the country, while the Americans officially maintain 2,000.
As part of the text approved by the alliance, there will be a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept, most recently updated in 2010, without any mention of China and seeing Russia as a potential partner.
Important points of military doctrine will be integrated: attacks in or from space will be eligible for military reprisals, and the famous article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which defines the collective defense of members in the event of an attack. , will be further clarified. .
In addition, concerns about instability in Belarus, climate change and the response to pandemics after Covid-19 remain on the organization’s agenda.
1949 – The 12 founding nations of NATO sign the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington.
1952 – Turkey and Greece join.
1955 – West Germany joins NATO after years of denazification.
1956 – First internal crisis, the United States opposing Franco-British intervention in the Suez crisis.
1961 – The Cold War raises the bar with the construction of the Berlin Wall.
1966 – France leaves the NATO command structure, accusing America of excess power.
1982 – Spain joins NATO.
1989 – Fall of the Berlin Wall, beginning of the end of Soviet communism.
1990 – German reunification, East Germany leaves the Warsaw Pact.
1991 – End of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.
1994 – First NATO military action: shoot down of four Serbian planes in Bosnia.
1994 – War in Chechnya reveals Russian military weakness; Moscow joins the partnership program.
1996 – The Russians support NATO troops in the former Yugoslavia.
1999 – NATO attacks Yugoslavia, start of Russian withdrawal; Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic join.
2001 – In response to September 11, NATO Article 5, Mutual Defense in the Event of Aggression, is invoked for the first time.
2003 – Another rupture: the countries led by Germany veto NATO in the war in Iraq.
2004 – Expansion to the east, with seven ex-communist countries, including the Baltic States, bringing the number of members to 26.
2008 – To veto NATO membership, Russia goes to war on Georgia.
2009 – France returns to NATO military command; Albania and Croatia join.
2011 – Under a UN mandate, NATO controls Libya’s airspace.
2014 – Russia annexes Crimea and intervenes in eastern Ukraine to prevent Kiev from joining the West.
2017 – Montenegro joins NATO.
2018 – Trump’s division between the United States and NATO grows along with U.S. charges for more spending.
2019 – Trump leaves NATO leadership after falling out with other leaders.
2021 – Biden takes over and tries to reconnect with the alliance. Putin threatens Ukraine and NATO offers support to Kiev.