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

WASHINGTON — In their most serious rebuke of Beijing, NATO allies on Wednesday called China a “decisive facilitator” of Russia’s war against Ukraine and expressed concerns about China’s nuclear arsenal and its capabilities in space.

The strictly worded final communiqué, approved by the 32 NATO members at their summit in Washington, makes it 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 with Russia and its Asian backers, particularly China.

Beijing denies supporting Russia’s war efforts and insists it conducts normal trade with its northern neighbor.

In the communiqué, NATO member states said China has become a war facilitator through its “no-limits partnership” with Russia and its large-scale support for the Russian defense industry.

“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 special responsibility to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to cease all material and political support for Russia’s war effort,” the statement said, referring to China by its official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing has expressed displeasure over NATO’s growing interest in Asia, demanding that the alliance stay out of the Asia-Pacific region and avoid confrontation.

“NATO should not use China to justify its insertion into the Asia-Pacific and try 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 the international order.”

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

Danny Russel, former assistant secretary of state for Asia and now vice president for international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute, called NATO’s new wording “an extraordinary step,” especially since it was accompanied in the same communiqué by a warning that Beijing continues to pose “systemic challenges” to European interests and security.

“It is a sign of how badly Beijing’s attempt to bridge Russia and Western Europe has failed and how hollow its claim to neutrality rings,” Russel said. “China’s attempts at divide and rule have instead produced remarkable solidarity among key countries of the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions.”

In Washington, where NATO leaders are meeting this week to celebrate the coalition’s 75th anniversary, President Joe Biden said the alliance should not follow Russia, which is ramping up weapons production with the help of China, North Korea and Iran. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks that NATO would enforce its partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.