US President Joe Biden and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg agreed on Monday that strengthening the trans-Atlantic alliance was essential in such time of global competition.
Stoltenberg briefed reporters outside the White House following a meeting with Biden, who will attend his first NATO summit as US president next week, soon after the G7 summit from June 11-13.
“We agree that in a more competitive world, we need to strengthen NATO, and we need to face security challenges, which no ally can face alone. So, therefore, we need to stand together as NATO,” the alliance’s secretary general said.
The two also discussed how to reinforce the alliance in the face of challenges, including global terrorism and climate change, as well as strained ties with Russia and China.
Their meeting was centered around preparing for next week’s summit. Stoltenberg had called on NATO allies to “invest more” to strengthen the alliance’s defense, “and that’s what we are doing,” he said.
Stoltenberg said he agreed with Biden on a “dual-track approach” of “deterrence, defense and dialogue” with Russia.
“Dialogue with Russia is not a sign of weakness… even if we don’t believe in a better relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia,” he said.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the timing of the Biden-Putin summit guaranteed that the US president would have “the wind in his back” as he will have consulted with allies in Europe.
On Biden’s first foreign trip as president, he will also attend a highly anticipated meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, following the NATO and G7 leaders’ summits.
Sullivan stressed that Biden was not meeting Putin “despite” their differences, but because of them.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that cooperation with China offered opportunities for the Western economies, but there remained issues that paved the way for a difficult relationship with Beijing.
He condemned China’s “coercive” policies toward Taiwan, Uyghurs and Hong Kong protesters, but said NATO allies needed to discuss with China issues like climate change and arms control.
“China will soon have the biggest economy in the world — they already have the second-largest defense budget, the biggest navy, they are investing heavily in advanced military capabilities, and they don’t share our values,” Stoltenberg said.
Next week, Biden and leaders of the G7 nations would announce “a new initiative to provide financing for physical, digital and health infrastructure in the developing world. A high standard, climate friendly, transparent and rules-based alternative to what China is offering,” Sullivan told reporters, seemingly alluding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, among other international development projects funded from Beijing.