MUNICH — Wake up, Europe. We must face the China challenge.
That was NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s message on Saturday for the global security elite gathered at the Munich Security Conference.
The military alliance chief directly linked Russia’s war in Ukraine to China, hinting at concerns about Beijing launching a war on Taiwan, the self-governed island Beijing still claims.
“What is happening in Europe today,” he cautioned, “could happen in Asia tomorrow.”
Moscow, Stoltenberg underscored, “wants a different Europe” while Beijing “is watching closely to see the price Russia pays — or the reward it receives for its aggression.”
“Even if the war ends tomorrow,” he added, “our security environment is changed for the long term.”
Stoltenberg’s remarks come against the backdrop of a broader conversation among Western allies about how to approach China as it makes revanchist military threats toward Taiwan and pumps up its own industries with government help.
While countries like the U.S. have pushed allies to keep a closer eye on Beijing and distance themselves from China’s economy, others have expressed caution about turning China into such an unequivocal enemy.
The NATO chief warned that Western allies must act united on both the military and economic fronts.
“The war in Ukraine has made clear the danger of over-reliance on authoritarian regimes,” he noted.
“We should not make the same mistake with China and other authoritarian regimes,” he said, calling on the West to eschew its dependence on China for the raw materials powering society. He also warned against exporting key technologies to the country.
And while focusing on external adversaries, Stoltenberg also implored NATO allies to avoid internal squabbling.
“We must not create new barriers between free and open economies,” he said.
“The most important lesson from the war in Ukraine,” he added, “is that North America and Europe must stand together.”
CORRECTION: Jens Stoltenberg’s reference to Asia has been updated.