British Defence Figures Call For NATO Rethink On China And Russia

They say the alliance needs a coherent policy on China, and to invest more in combatting non-conventional attacks by Russia.

A group of senior British defence figures is calling for NATO to overhaul its approaches to China and Russia.

They say the alliance needs a coherent policy on China to avoid potential conflicts and de-escalate any tensions, and stress the need to invest more in combatting non-conventional attacks by Russia.

NATO has evolved since its birth after the Second World War, amid the rise of communism.

The world continues to change, and the report's authors say new challenges are not being properly addressed by the alliance.

Among those calling for NATO to 'develop its strategic direction' are Lord Robertson, who was a Labour Defence Secretary and then NATO Secretary General, former Liberal Democrats leader Lord Campbell, and former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

At top meetings, NATO officials have noted the rise of China, but there has not been any decision on how to address it.

Anonymous picture of Chinese troops preparing for military parade at Zhurihe training base 300717 CREDIT PA
The authors of the report say say the Alliance needs a ‘coherent policy’ on China, and to invest more in combatting non-conventional attacks by Russia (Picture: PA).

Senior UK defence figures have stressed Beijing's imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong raises grave concerns for Taiwan, which China insists is part of its country.

Sir Michael Fallon told Forces News: "China is becoming more of a threat, the Chinese armed forces are expanding - there’s been a huge growth there.

"The Chinese navy has been sailing out of Chinese waters, it’s been into the North Sea, it’s been into the Mediterranean, the Chinese army has been building up.

"And secondly of course, we already know China is very strong in developing cyber technology, and we have to be sure we can always be protected against that."

Asked if that is something for NATO to be doing, or a foreign policy matter to be dealt with away from a military alliance, Sir Michael said: “Well NATO is a political alliance as well as a military alliance, it always has been and that’s been one of the secrets of its success.”

NATO has concerns over China with its close ties with Russia – last month saw their armies march together at a parade in Moscow.

Russia has returned to being NATO’s main focus since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Kremlin 111119 CREDIT PA .jpg
Library image of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin (Picture: PA).

The alliance has trained Ukrainian forces and has sent thousands more troops into eastern member states like Estonia.

The authors of the report, however, believe there is more work to be done.

Sir Michael continued: "We’ve seen a lot about Russian activity that isn’t purely military, it’s been in this kind of grey zone.

"We’ve seen attacks on our own soil here with the Skripal poisoning, we’ve seen interference in various European elections, traceable back to Russian propaganda so some of Russia’s activities and its aggression has been more sophisticated, more nuanced and again.

"NATO needs to respond to that to show it can respond, for example, to cyber attacks.”

The senior political figures behind the report may have new hopes of a new strategic direction, but also express ‘deep concerns’ that some governments are moving away from the alliance’s fundamental values.

They call for a frank debate among leaders, with the chance of suspension from NATO for those who will not cooperate.

Cover image: Library picture of a NATO meeting in session (Picture: MOD).