Beijing is ‘watching closely’ if Russia succeeds in Ukraine, NATO says, flagging rising China challenge

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Saturday China is “watching closely” whether or not Russia succeeds in Ukraine.

Johannes Simon | Stringer | Getty Images News

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Saturday that China is closely watching Russia’s success in Ukraine, with the outcome of Europe’s war likely to have wide-reaching implications for Beijing’s behavior in Asia-Pacific.

“Beijing is watching closely what’s going on in Ukraine. And if Putin wins there, of course, that will impact their decisions on how to behave in Asia,” Stoltenberg told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

“What happens in Europe, in Ukraine, matters for Asia, and what happens in Asia matters for Europe,” he said at the Munich Security Conference.

Speaking ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Stoltenberg said that NATO does not see China as an “imminent” threat.

However, he noted that the military coalition is stepping up its cooperation with allies within the region, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“We don’t see China as an enemy or any imminent threat. But we assess that the rise of China, China’s growing economic and military power, is a challenge to our security, to our interests, or to our values.”

He added, “Security is not regional. Security is global.”

Chinese spy balloons ‘part of a pattern’

The comments come as concerns mount over China’s growing military presence around Taiwan. They also follow the discovery of a series of Chinese balloons above U.S. airspace, which prompted Washington to accuse Beijing of espionage.

Stoltenberg said that the balloons were part of a pattern of surveillance tactics employed by China to gather intelligence on NATO allies.

“The reality is, this is part of a pattern we have seen, where China has stepped up their intelligence activities over many years, using many different platforms such as cyber satellites and other types of platforms to spy on and to gather intelligence from NATO-allied countries, both in North America, but also in Europe,” he added.

Watch CNBC's full interview with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

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