In a recent conversation with the Atlantic Council, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commented on Russian aggression along Ukraine’s borders and discussed the capabilities of Ukraine and NATO.
Stoltenberg noted that NATO’s raison d'être is to protect the thirty NATO members and the approximately one billion people that live in NATO countries. NATO’s combined strength should not be forgotten, and it likely won’t be overlooked by the Kremlin, Stoltenberg also noted.
American Sea Power on Loan
The Secretary General also brought up the U.S. Navy’s USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier. Notably, the United States recently shifted that carrier from American command to NATO command. Stoltenberg praised the move and explained that it marked the first time “in decades” that NATO had a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at its disposal.
With the Truman, NATO now has “more naval and air assets in the region available if needed,” Stoltenberg added. Stoltenberg noted that the carrier also sends a strong message to a different revanchist power: China.
The China-Russia Connection
In light of the Western sanctions that would follow a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow could find financial assistance and political support by looking east to China, Stoltenberg explained.
“Now what we see is that Russia and China are becoming closer and closer. They exercise together; they operate together; they stand together, for instance, more and more in the UN, in the UN Security Council,” Stoltenberg explained.
“So these are two authoritarian regimes that do not share our values when it comes to democracy, the rule of law, the rules-based international order, and of course, that adds to the concern that these two countries are becoming closer and closer, both when it comes to military but also political cooperation, and they crack down on democratic opposition in their respective countries.”
During a time when authoritarian regimes feel emboldened to step up, it has never been more important for NATO’s members—which support the rule of law, democracy, and the freedom of the press—to band together to deter Russia. However, Stoltenberg notes that they must be united in their efforts to engage Russia diplomatically. “NATO’s ready for dialogue,” Stoltenberg affirmed, “especially in light of the challenges both China and Russia pose to the rules-based order.”
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.