On April 4, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization celebrated its 70th anniversary. In the first address to Congress by a NATO head, Jen Stoltenberg gave a strong defense of the military alliance and urged allies not to be “naïve” about Russia’s intentions.
In his speech Stoltenberg acknowledged the serious divisions within the alliance, “questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the strength of our partnerships. And, yes, there are differences.” President Donald Trump has often criticized NATO, calling it “obsolete” in 2017, and has previously suggested that some members are freeloaders. But Trump isn’t the only source of friction within the alliance. More recently, NATO allies are at odds with Turkey over its plan to purchase S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.
On Russia, Stoltenberg cautioned not to be “naïve” about its intentions and called for bigger defense budgets to cope with the Kremlin’s assertiveness. Stoltenberg listed the annexation of Crimea, the use of a nerve agent in Britain and Russian interference in democratic elections to outline what he cited as “a pattern of Russian behavior” and as reasons to push for a more united response against Russian attacks.
But even as Russia remains a priority for NATO, China and its growing influence, is making its way to the top of the priority list. According to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, “China is a challenge on almost every topic. It is important to gain a better understanding of what this implies for NATO.” Although it is unclear what NATO’s role would be in cautioning the West on China’s increased influence, there is growing consensus within the alliance that policy on China is a common interest between the U.S. and Europe.