NATO Singles Out China Over Its Support for Russia in Ukraine

Leaders attend a working session during the NATO Summit in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. President Joe Biden and NATO's 31 other leaders had hoped their summit would celebrate fresh unity against Russia's Vladimir Putin, send a warning to China and prove the alliance is as strong as ever in its 75th year, but the three days of pageantry will be overshadowed by domestic turmoil across the alliance. Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg (Ting Shen/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- NATO leaders issued the alliance’s strongest-ever language calling out China’s military support for Russia amid signs that Beijing is developing an attack drone for the conflict with Ukraine.

In a declaration issued Wednesday night during its 75th anniversary summit in Washington, NATO described China as a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The communique detailed China’s supply of dual-use materials such as weapons components, equipment and raw materials that serve as inputs for Russia’s defense sector. 

The US briefed NATO allies on China’s support before the summit as part of efforts to forge a shared concern over the burgeoning defense partnership, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The declaration said China poses “systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security,” including through cyber activities and disinformation as well as its development of counter-space capabilities. 

“We urge all countries not to provide any kind of assistance to Russia’s aggression.  We condemn all those who are facilitating and thereby prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the alliance said in the communique.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in an emailed statement that Beijing’s “normal trade with Russia is done above board,” adding, “China does not provide weapons to the parties to the conflict and strictly controls the export of dual-use articles.”

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said “it would be very unwise” for China to deliver weapons to Russia.

Allies have pointed out “that China and Russia are collaborating deeply in the defense field,” including with more joint military exercises and Beijing providing a lot of dual use equipment, Jonson said in an interview. “They’ve been increasing that support and that’s a great concern.”

US officials have said China is holding off directly providing weapons and artillery, something that would signal an unprecedented escalation and almost certainly trigger more forceful action — such as sanctions — against the world’s second-biggest economy.

Still, European capitals were alarmed by reports this month that Chinese and Russian companies were developing an attack drone similar to an Iranian model deployed in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported earlier. 

The push from NATO shows a growing consensus between the US and its partners that Beijing represents a threat not just in Asia, but also to European security through its support for Russia. In recent years, European capitals from Berlin to London, Prague and Vilnius have hardened their stance on China. 

Bloomberg also reported in April that Beijing was providing Russia with satellite imagery for military purposes, microelectronics and machine tools for tanks, as well as a swath of technologies used in weapons or needed to produce them.

Back in May, former UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps provoked a tiff with Washington when he suggested that China was working to provide Russia with lethal aid. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that to date, the US hadn’t seen China providing weapons directly to Russia. 

--With assistance from Milda Seputyte, Andrea Palasciano and Jon Herskovitz.

(Updates with Chinese Embassy statement in fifth paragraph.)

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