China Is Challenging NATO Over Russia's Ukraine War: Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China's failure to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine represents a "serious challenge" to the entire North Atlantic alliance.

Stoltenberg spoke with journalists on Thursday after NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels, joined by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. NATO's Asia Pacific partners—Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea—were also in attendance.

The NATO chief said the attendance of Asia Pacific partners was important "because the crisis has global ramifications," not least due to the role of China in giving tacit support for Moscow's invasion.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg at Brussels briefing
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addresses media representatives at a press conference following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 7, 2022. FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP via Getty Images

"We have seen that China is unwilling to condemn Russia's aggression," Stoltenberg said. "And Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path. This is a serious challenge to us all. It makes it even more important that we stand together to protect our values."

Stoltenberg added that NATO and its partners in the Asia Pacific had agreed "to step up our practical and political cooperation in several areas," including cyber technology, maritime security, climate change, and resilience.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, China's mission to the European Union disputed Stoltenberg's analysis. "Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, China has always maintained an objective and fair position, remained committed to promoting peace talks and made positive efforts towards the deescalation of the situation," the mission said.

"This stands in contrast to the attempts of fanning the flames and adding fuel to the fire as some organizations do."

The mission also dismissed NATO as "a remnant of the Cold War" that is "increasingly targeting China." The mission said this "is the serious challenge confronting global peace and stability."

China has refused to join the West in condemning Russia's invasion and in implementing sanctions on Moscow to force an end to the fighting. Beijing has called for de-escalation and peace talks, but has carefully avoided blaming Moscow for the violence.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party and its media organs have consistently accused the U.S. of fueling the conflict by providing weapons to Ukraine and refusing to renege on NATO's "open door" policy for new members.

Chinese media has also peddled groundless Russian-driven conspiracy theories about U.S.-Ukrainian biolabs and neo-Nazi influence inside the country.

On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian refused to connect Russia to suspected war crimes in Kyiv's suburbs, from which Russian troops recently withdrew. Satellite images and intercepted Russian military phone calls link Russian troops to torture and summary execution of civilians.

Russian officials and media have simultaneously blamed Ukrainian forces for civilian deaths and claimed that atrocities were fabricated.

Zhao told reporters that the "truth and the cause of the incident must be verified...All parties should exercise restraint and avoid unfounded accusations before a conclusion of the investigation is drawn."

Zhao also repeated Beijing's criticism of international sanctions. "History and reality have proven that sanctions do not bring peace and security, but only bring lose-lose or multiple losses, adding to the already difficult world economy and impacting the existing world economic system," he said.

Echoing another long-established Russian talking point, Zhao also accused the U.S. of creating the situation in Ukraine so as to "profit from the chaos and make a lot of money."

4/8/22 3:25 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comment from China's mission to the European Union.