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NATO will call out China over support for Russia in Ukraine

Donato Paolo Mancini, Peter Martin and Natalia Drozdiak, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

NATO leaders are set to issue the alliance’s strongest-ever language calling out China’s military support for Russia, people familiar with the matter said, amid signs that Beijing is developing an attack drone for the conflict with Ukraine.

NATO will describe China as a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to the latest draft of a communique set to be released at the end of a three-day alliance summit and seen by Bloomberg News. The draft details China’s supply of dual-use materials such as weapons components, equipment and raw materials that serve as inputs for Russia’s defense sector.

The U.S. briefed NATO allies on China’s support in the run-up to the summit as part of efforts to cement shared concern over the burgeoning defense partnership, the people said. The draft document says that China poses “systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security,” including through cyber activities and disinformation as well as its development of counter-space capabilities.

The wording of the draft could change before the final version is released Thursday.

“Our normal trade with Russia is done aboveboard,” Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in an emailed statement. “China does not provide weapons to the parties to the conflict and strictly controls the export of dual-use articles.”

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said “it would be very unwise” for China to deliver weapons to Russia.

Allies have pointed out “that China and Russia are collaborating deeply in the defense field,” including with more joint military exercises and Beijing providing a lot of dual-use equipment, Jonson said in an interview. “They’ve been increasing that support and that’s a great concern.”

U.S. officials have said China is holding off directly providing weapons and artillery, something that would signal an unprecedented escalation and almost certainly trigger more forceful action — such as sanctions — against the world’s second-biggest economy.


Still, European capitals were alarmed by reports this month that Chinese and Russian companies are developing an attack drone similar to an Iranian model deployed in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported earlier.

The push from NATO shows a growing consensus between the U.S. and its partners that Beijing represents a threat not just in Asia, but also to European security through its support for Russia. In recent years, European capitals from Berlin to London, Prague and Vilnius have hardened their stance on China.

Bloomberg also reported in April that Beijing was providing Russia with satellite imagery for military purposes, microelectronics and machine tools for tanks, as well as a swath of technologies used in weapons or needed to produce them.

Back in May, former U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps provoked a tiff with Washington when he suggested that China was working to provide Russia with lethal aid. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that to date, the U.S. hadn’t seen China providing weapons directly to Russia.


(With assistance from Milda Seputyte and Andrea Palasciano.)


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