Pompeo urges NATO allies to adapt to new China, Russia threats

Foreign ministers from NATO member countries meet in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance.

    United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged NATO allies on Thursday to work together to confront a wide variety of emerging threats from Russia and China.

    Pompeo made the call at the start of a NATO meeting of foreign ministers in Washington that marked the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic military alliance.

    "We must adapt our alliance to confront emerging threats ... whether that's Russian aggression, uncontrolled migration, cyberattacks, threats to energy security, Chinese strategic competition, including technology and 5G ... [or] many other issues," Pompeo said.

    In a 2018 strategy document, the United States military put countering China and Russia at the heart of a new national defence strategy.

    The meeting's first session focused on ways to deter Russia, including in the Black Sea, where it seized three Ukrainian naval vessels last year.

    NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow to release the ships and their crews.

    He said Russia's breach of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was part of a "pattern of destabilising behaviour". 

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    Washington has said it will withdraw from the treaty this summer unless Moscow ends its alleged violations of the pact, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles.

    "We will not mirror what Russia is doing," said Stoltenberg. "We will be measured and coordinated, and we have no intention of deploying ground-launched nuclear missiles in Europe."

    Cyber warfare

    In his remarks, Pompeo said NATO should also confront increased cyber warfare, including threats from China.

    Washington has warned it will not partner with countries that adopt China's Huawei Technologies systems, but has been at odds on the issue with the European Union (EU), which has shunned US calls to ban the company across the bloc. The bulk of NATO members are EU countries.

    Huawei is under scrutiny from Western intelligence agencies for its perceived ties to China's government and the possibility that its equipment could be used for espionage.

    Huawei has repeatedly denied engaging in intelligence work for any government.

    The US has also been at odds with European countries over the failure of many of them to meet NATO defence-spending guidelines of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

    Stoltenberg told reporters that NATO allies should commit to increased defence spending to improve burden-sharing in NATO. 

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    "All NATO allies made a pledge to invest more in defense to improve burden-sharing in our alliance, and I expect all allies, including Germany, of course, to make good on the pledge we made together," the NATO secretary general said.

    Defence spending

    US President Donald Trump has called on NATO countries to pay even more than two percent of their GDP for defence.

    He told NATO leaders last year to increase defence spending to four percent of GDP. He said the US pays 4.3 percent of its GDP to NATO.

    Trump has singled out Germany for not doing enough. Stoltenberg said Germany was now making progress, but all allies needed to do more.

    "We didn't make this pledge to please the United States. We made it because we live in a more unpredictable and uncertain world," Stoltenberg said.

    On Thursday, Pompeo said every NATO member had an obligation to explain to its citizens the need to increase their defence budgets and rejected what he called "tired arguments" about public opposition to such spending.

    The NATO chief said disagreement between NATO members Turkey and the US over Ankara's plan to buy S-400 missile defence systems from Russia was not part of the formal agenda of the Washington meeting, but would be discussed in the margins.

    The US has halted delivery of equipment related to its advanced F-35 fighter jets to Turkey over its S-400 plans.

    The US has said Turkey's purchase of the Russian air defence system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft, which are built by Lockheed Martin Corp and employ stealth technology. 

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    Pompeo on Thursday said he was confident the US will be able to "find a path forward" with Turkey over its S-400 plans.

    Meanwhile, Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took the opportunity of the NATO meeting to register Ottawa's displeasure with being labeled a potential national security threat by the US in relation to steel production.

    She called the designation, which has led to the imposition of tariffs on Canadian steel, "absurd" and pointed to her presence at the NATO meeting as proof that Canada is not a threat to the US.

    Pompeo said NATO allies also discussed the need for Russian troops to leave Venezuela.

    SOURCE: News agencies