Secretary of State Antony Blinken went after China and other “autocratic states” during his first official European engagement Wednesday, addressing a meeting of NATO officials in Brussels. While urging a “collective” response to the China threat, he at the same time told his audience at NATO headquarters that the US doesn’t plan to force allies into an “us-or-them” choice when it comes to confronting Beijing (akin to the US longstanding policy on Iran sanctions in which countries are punished for dealing with Tehran).
“The United States won’t force our allies into an ‘us-or-them’ choice with China,” he said, and emphasized “there’s no question that China’s coercive behavior threatens our collective security and prosperity.” He added: “But that doesn’t mean countries can’t work with China where possible. The United States will. We can’t afford not to – especially on challenges like climate change and health security.”
He had earlier told officials in some introductory remarks upon arriving in Brussels, “Whether it is tackling some of the new challenges like climate or the cyber realm, the rise of autocratic states and the challenges that they pose, we have a profound interest in doing it together, doing it collectively, relying on collective security, and that’s what Nato is all about,” Blinken said. He urged that NATO should be “focused on some of the challenges that China poses to the rules-based international order.”
“We will rely on innovation, not ultimatums,” he said while calling on the West to outcompete with China, as opposed to military confrontation.
In the “us-or-them” part of his speech, and the question of whether allies will be coerced in going along with Washington’s position, he further sought to assure: “We know that our allies have complex relationships with China that won’t always align perfectly with ours. But we need to navigate these challenges together.”
And according to Bloomberg on the question of greater shared defense spending which was so much a theme of the prior Trump administration, Blinken is “is offering some wiggle room to allies that haven’t boosted defense spending as much as the US wants.”
Earlier in the day prior to Blinken’s keynote address, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the Atlantic military alliance must adapt to the growing “threat” from China, warning that its rise has “dire consequences” for the security of its members. “China is a country that doesn’t share our values,” he emphasized. “They actually try and undermine the international rules-based order.”
To some degree Western allies including the US, UK, European Union, and Canada on Monday demonstrated precisely the kind of “collective” security action that Blinken is calling for in confronting Beijing, given the coordinated rollout of sanctions on select top Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang against the Muslim Uighur minority. Beijing has promised to retaliate, which has already included counter-sanctions against an expansive list of EU entities and individuals.
Likely similar sanctions are imminent against Britain, Canada, and the United States as well, according to prior threats out of China’s Foreign Ministry.
U.S., EU to cooperate on China dialogue, Russia challenge: statement
The United States and the European Union have agreed to relaunch a bilateral dialogue on China and work together to address Russia’s “challenging behavior,” according to a joint statement on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, “acknowledged a shared understanding that relations with China are multifaceted, comprising elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry.”
They will also cooperate on topics including reciprocity, economic issues, resilience, human rights, security, multilateralism and climate change, the statement said.
“Secretary Blinken and High Representative Borrell confirmed that credible multi-party democracy, the protection of human rights and adherence to international law support the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.
“Both aim to cooperate to promote secure, sustainable, free and open maritime supply routes and supply chains and look forward to deepening cooperation with like-minded partners where interests and approaches intersect.”
Blinken and Borrell also said they would address “Russia’s challenging behavior, including its ongoing aggression against Ukraine and Georgia; hybrid threats, such as disinformation; interference in electoral processes; malicious cyber activities; and military posturing.”
During their meeting in Brussels, the two pledged to work together as well on the global distribution of safe and effective coronavirus vaccines, and to ensure they are prepared for future pandemics.
Among other issues the two ministers discussed were cooperation on climate action, Iran and Turkey.