This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The United States has renewed calls for NATO allies to increase their military spending so the alliance can adapt to new challenges, including a more aggressive Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Washington on April 4 that the world has entered a “new era of great power competition” and that, while the 29-member alliance was in a “position of strength,” emerging threats mean it cannot stop evolving.
“We must adapt our alliance to confront emerging threats … whether that’s Russian aggression, uncontrolled migration, cyberattacks, threats to energy security, Chinese strategic competition, including technology and 5G, and many other issues,” Pompeo said at the opening of the meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year the United States put China, Russia, and Iran at the heart of its national strategy for defense.
The foreign ministers held a series of sessions on the first day of the meeting at the headquarters of the U.S. State Department focusing on Russia and the Black Sea region where Moscow seized three Ukrainian ships last year.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg addressed the Black Sea situation and called on Russia to release the vessels and their crews.
Alliance foreign ministers on April 4 approved a series of measures to “improve NATO’s situational awareness in the Black Sea region.”
The steps would provide allies Ukraine and Georgia with increased maritime cooperation, patrols, and port visits, the alliance said.
Stoltenberg also called Russia’s alleged breach of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty part of a “pattern of destabilizing behavior.”
“We will not mirror what Russia is doing,” Stoltenberg said.
“We will be measured and coordinated, and we have no intention of deploying ground-launched nuclear missiles in Europe,” he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump last year chided NATO leaders for failing to meet their commitments of spending 2 percent of economic output on defense.
Stoltenberg noted progress in members stepping up their spending but added there’s more work to be done.
“We didn’t make this pledge [to increase defense spending] to please the United States. We made it because we live in a more unpredictable and uncertain world,” Stoltenberg said.
Pompeo also said that NATO should address the rising threat of cyberwarfare as well, especially from China.
U.S. officials are concerned by Huawei’s expansion in Europe, especially in NATO member states where they believe the Chinese telecoms firm poses significant information-security threats.
Washington has warned it will not partner with countries that adopt China’s Huawei Technologies systems, but the EU has rejected Washington’s calls to ban the company across the bloc. The bulk of NATO members are EU countries.
Washington says the NATO meeting agenda also includes a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan, the demise of the INF treaty, which was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in the last years of the Cold War, and NATO-member Turkey’s purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile system.
The United States and other NATO countries have demanded that Ankara call off its deal with Russia to purchase the S-400, which is not compatible with NATO systems and is considered a threat to U.S. F-35 aircraft.
“Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on April 3.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on April 4 that the two-day gathering in Washington shows that NATO “has no intention of abandoning plans to step up military and political confrontation with Russia.”