A proxy war in Ukraine is not enough for Jens Stoltenberg, who clearly thinks his mandate extends to containing China in its own backyard
May 8, 2023
Jens Stoltenberg is wasted on being merely the Nato chief. Over Russia, China and much else, he almost always sounds more extreme than your average Pentagon general and the US defence secretary, who appear rational and restrained by comparison.
The Norwegian career politician and former prime minister beats the drums of war louder than many Washington hawks. He would make a perfect US secretary of defence, if not the president. Too bad the United States constitution bars non-natives from being the commander-in-chief, but nothing stops him from being the war secretary; just make him a citizen. The man is more patriotic than most Americans and reads off Washington’s warmongering scripts more faithfully than any European leader, while adding more propaganda niceties all his own.
The man is priceless, from the American perspective. But then, no one in the know doubts Nato is anything but an extension of the US military machine. His latest salvo: “China refuses to condemn Russia’s aggression, echoes Russia’s propaganda and props up Russia’s economy”.
That’s the cheap rhetoric of a talking head on Fox News, not the chief of the world’s most powerful military alliance.
China is hardly alone. India, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil and half the countries in South America and Africa have taken a similar position over Ukraine. A majority of those nations that have voted to condemn Russia and demand it to leave Ukraine in the United Nations General Assembly have nevertheless declined to join the US-led sanctions, with some even openly criticising the sanctions as worsening economic conditions in the Global South.
Propping up Russia’s economy? How about telling Europe to stop buying Russian gas, right here, right now? Here’s a Bloomberg report on March 28. “Europe needs all the LNG [liquefied natural gas] it can get to fill the void left by dwindling Russian piped supplies. In fact, the bloc boosted imports of the liquefied fuel from the country by more than 30 per cent last year.
“There still aren’t any concrete sanctions or timelines for a withdrawal from Russian LNG, and comments remain vague enough to allow for deliveries to continue with no recourse.
“Increasing imports of LNG from Moscow runs counter to the bloc’s hardline approach against Vladimir Putin. But slapping a ban on the fuel risks gas shortages and higher prices. And there’s no sign an embargo would get the unanimous support needed from member states, despite a push from some Baltic countries.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with the media as he arrives
for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Photo: AP Photo
Stoltenberg should first tell his EU pals to stop importing Russian LNG and propping up Vladimir Putin before criticising anyone else. But following Washington, Stoltenberg has warned the only country that has tabled something resembling a peace plan of “severe consequences” and “profound implications” if it sent weapons to Russia.
Even US defence bureaucrats, as opposed to politicians, have admitted there is no indication or evidence of such arms transfers or even planning. I guess that’s success; Stoltenberg’s warnings must have scared off the Chinese!
Stoltenberg has even criticised Beijing over Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, mass surveillance and the internet. The internet? Hong Kong? Is this guy the Nato chief or something else? Are there no limits to his official Nato mandate? Last I heard, it’s still the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, though Stoltenberg is clearly trying to add “Indo-Pacific” to the title. In fact, Nato has been engaging Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia with an eye towards a convergence in military doctrines, command structures and technologies.
That’s getting scary. Somehow, running a not-so-shadowy proxy war against Russia under Nato is not enough to occupy Stoltenberg; he has to add his own propaganda war against China into the mix. Asian countries beware! Stoltenberg clearly wants to pile up the powder keg already accumulating sky-high by the US and its Aukus friends in the Asia-Pacific.
Putin may be a threat to Europe, but Stoltenberg and his kind are a danger to the East.
About the author
Alex Lo has been a columnist at South China Morning Post, SCMP, since 2012, covering major issues affecting Hong Kong and the rest of China. A journalist for 25 years, he has worked for various publications in Hong Kong and Toronto as a news reporter and editor. He has also lectured in journalism at the University of Hong Kong. More of his excellent columns can be found here.
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