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Six NATO countries plan to build ‘drone wall’ on Russian border

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Six NATO countries are planning to develop a “drone wall” that they say will help protect their borders with Russia, citing “a series of provocations ranging from forced migration to attempts to change borders”.

Ministers from Finland, Norway, Poland and the three Baltic states said at the weekend that they were discussing the creation of a coordinated drone system along their borders with Russia to prevent smuggling and new provocations, and to help with defence.

“This is something completely new, a drone wall stretching from Norway to Poland … and the aim is to use drones and other technologies to protect our borders … against provocations from unfriendly countries and to prevent smuggling,” Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė told the Baltic News Service.

Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told public broadcaster Yle that the drone wall plan would “develop over time” and could help protect the Nordic country’s 1,340km border with Russia.

No details were given on the timing of the drone wall or how it would work. Bilotaitė said each country would have to do its own “homework”, noting that EU funds could also be used.

Tensions between Russia and NATO countries in the Baltic region have increased in recent weeks. Last week, the Russian defence ministry posted on its website a draft proposal to unilaterally extend its maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland, which was later removed.

A day later, Russian border guards removed 25 buoys marking the border from Estonian waters, sparking anger from NATO and some member states, as well as messages of support for Tallinn.

Many NATO countries believe that Russia could ‘test’ NATO’s borders in the next five to ten years, while intelligence services have suggested a series of sabotage operations on their territory.

The six NATO countries also discussed plans to evacuate large sections of their populations in the event of a conflict. Finnish officials, for example, expressed surprise that Ukraine was keeping its civilian population on or near the front line, and said the Nordic country’s defence plans included evacuating its border population.

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German proposal for Huawei curbs triggers telecom operator backlash

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On Thursday night, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Germany expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to Germany’s decision to exclude Huawei and ZTE telecom equipment from the 5G network, warning that the move will seriously undermine mutual trust between the two sides and also affect future cooperation between China and the EU in related fields.

Chinese experts who have evaluated the issue also said on Friday that Germany’s decision shows that it is under further pressure from the US and the EU, noting that excluding Chinese components from the 5G network will have a significant cost and hinder the country’s communications development.

In a preliminary agreement due to “security concerns”, the German government and the country’s telecoms operators have agreed in principle on steps to remove components made by Chinese companies from the country’s 5G mobile network over the next five years, Reuters reported on Thursday.

In response, the Chinese spokesperson said that Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese communications companies have long been operating in Germany in accordance with the law and have made a positive contribution to Germany’s digitalisation process.

The alleged cybersecurity risk is “nothing more than an excuse”, the spokesperson said, adding that it is essentially the behaviour of individual countries to pressure their competitors in order to maintain their own scientific and technological hegemony. In fact, no country has yet provided conclusive evidence of the existence of safety risks in the equipment of Chinese companies, the spokesperson added.

“The German side’s announcement of the decision during the NATO summit in Washington has caused China to seriously question the independence of Berlin’s decision-making,” the spokesman said.

The Chinese official said Germany’s move was “blatant political discrimination” that seriously undermined mutual trust between the two sides and would also affect future China-EU cooperation in related areas.

“Germany’s move can be seen as politicising economic cooperation, as it is now facing more pressure from the US and the EU,” Sun Yanhong, a senior research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

Sun noted that Germany’s digital infrastructure is relatively backward, while Huawei and ZTE’s equipment is leading in terms of technology, integrated solutions and low-cost products, which will be a “loss” for Germany.

“The cost of the transition is expected to be significant, which will limit the development of all areas of the country’s digital economy, including smart driving, smart healthcare and production automation factories,” the expert warned.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy spokesperson stressed that Beijing will take necessary measures to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian also said at a press conference on Thursday that China hopes Germany will respect facts and make reasonable decisions, and urges the European country to create a fair market environment for enterprises from all countries, including Chinese enterprises.

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NATO final declaration targets China and Russia

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The final declaration of the NATO summit in Washington has been released.

While the summit, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Alliance, was full of meetings, the final declaration was dominated by the war in Ukraine and harsh words for China and Russia.

The declaration emphasised that NATO is a “defence alliance” and stressed that the Alliance’s three main missions are deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security.

“Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has disrupted peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region and seriously damaged global security,” NATO said, declaring that Russia “remains the most significant and immediate threat to the security of our Allies”.

“Conflict, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East directly affect our security and that of our partners,” the statement said, making no reference to Israel’s occupation of Gaza.

NATO accused Iran of affecting Euro-Atlantic security through “destabilising” actions and argued that “the stated objectives and coercive policies of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continue to challenge NATO’s interests, security and values”.

“The deepening strategic partnership between Russia and the People’s Republic of China and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undermine and reshape the rules-based international order are of deep concern,” the declaration said.

NATO members said they could not rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of allied countries and said they would continue to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence “against all threats and challenges, in all domains and in multiple strategic directions in the Euro-Atlantic area”.

Military coordination centre established in Ukraine

“We reaffirm our unwavering solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their heroic defence of their nation, their territory and our shared values,” NATO said in a statement. NATO has decided to establish NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU) to coordinate the provision of military equipment and training to Ukraine by Allies and Partners.

NSATU, which will operate in allied countries, will “support Ukraine’s self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter”.

It will “not make NATO a party to the conflict, in accordance with international law” and will “support the transformation of Ukraine’s defence and security forces and ensure their further integration into NATO”.

The Allies argued that Ukraine’s future lies in NATO, and that Kiev is becoming increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with NATO.

While support for Ukraine’s NATO membership was reaffirmed, the condition of “meeting the conditions” was once again on the agenda.

Russia urged to withdraw from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine

It also called on Russia to stop the war immediately and to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine completely and unconditionally in accordance with UN General Assembly resolutions.

“We also call on Russia to withdraw all forces deployed in Moldova and Georgia without their consent,” NATO said, declaring that it would never recognise Russia’s “illegal annexation” of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

Claiming that Russia is seeking to “fundamentally restructure” the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, NATO said: “The threat posed by Russia to NATO in all domains will persist over the long term. Russia is rebuilding and expanding its military capabilities, continuing its airspace violations and provocative activities,” NATO said.

NATO insisted it was not a threat to Russia and said it was ready to maintain channels of communication with Moscow to reduce risks and avoid escalation.

Warnings to Russia about Belarus, Iran and China

The NATO statement called on all countries not to support “Russian aggression” and condemned “all those who facilitate and prolong Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

“Belarus continues to facilitate this war by providing its territory and infrastructure,” NATO said, adding that Belarus’ deepening political and military integration with Russia “has negative consequences for regional stability and the defence of the Alliance”.

Arguing that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran were fuelling the war by providing direct military support to Russia, such as munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), NATO said it “strongly condemns the DPRK’s export of artillery shells and ballistic missiles in violation of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions” and noted “with great concern the deepening ties between North Korea and Russia”.

“Iran’s transfer of ballistic missiles and related technology to Russia would constitute a serious escalation,” the statement said.

China in the crosshairs

“This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbours and to Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO said, arguing that China has become a “decisive supporter” of Russia in the Ukraine war.

“This includes the transfer of dual-use items such as weapons components, equipment and raw materials that are inputs for Russia’s defence sector,” NATO said, calling on China to cut off all financial and political support for Russia’s war effort.

Indo-Pacific pivot to continue

“The Indo-Pacific region is important to NATO because developments in the region have a direct impact on Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO said, announcing that it would meet with the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the European Union to discuss “common security challenges and areas of cooperation”.

“We are strengthening dialogue to address cross-regional challenges and enhancing our practical cooperation, including pioneering projects in support of Ukraine, cyber defence, counter-disinformation and technology,” NATO said, stressing that it “welcomes” the continued contribution of NATO’s Asia-Pacific partners to Euro-Atlantic security.

Liaison office opened in Jordan

Describing the countries of the Middle East as “NATO’s southern neighbours”, the declaration invited the Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative for the Southern Neighbourhood to serve as NATO’s focal point in the region and to coordinate NATO’s efforts.

In this context, the Allies also announced that they had agreed to open a NATO Liaison Office in Amman with the Kingdom of Jordan.

“Building on the success of the NATO Mission in Iraq (NMI) and at the request of the Iraqi authorities, we have expanded our support to the Iraqi security institutions and will continue our engagement through the NMI,” NATO said.

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The NATO summit begins in Washington: Ukraine and Trump top agenda

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The leaders of 32 NATO member states gather in Washington today (Tuesday 9 July) for a three-day summit.

NATO’s alliance against the Soviet Union and communism was launched in Washington exactly 75 years ago, on 4 April 1949, with the agreement of 12 countries. A commemorative programme to mark the 75th anniversary is expected to take place on 9 July, the first day of the summit.

The war in Ukraine, a possible Donald Trump presidency and fissures within the alliance will dominate the summit agenda.

40 billion aid package for Kyiv

NATO leaders are expected to pledge €40 billion in one-year aid to Ukraine this week, as key alliance members face domestic political turmoil that limits their ability to commit longer-term resources to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the summit: “Of course in democracies we can never give guarantees. We do not live in that world. But we live in a world where good outcomes are maximised and bad outcomes are minimised,” he said.

Stoltenberg added that the €40 billion pledged for Ukraine next year is an improvement on the current situation, where individual contributions are not always transparent or calculated according to the same criteria.

However, the new plan is less ambitious than NATO’s original proposal for a $100 billion multi-year assistance package.

“You can argue about whether the glass is half full, but the glass is more than half full,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Nato will not issue a formal invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance, the outcome Zelensky’s government most wants. But a senior Biden administration official told the Financial Times that the allies would make “significant” statements of support for Ukraine, including “new steps” to strengthen its air defences.

US President Joe Biden will also host an event on Thursday with Zelensky and nearly two dozen allies who have signed bilateral security agreements with Kyiv.

US election tensions

In the US, the Alliance’s engine room, discussions on Trump’s approach to NATO and Biden’s candidacy are on the agenda ahead of the November elections.

Biden is hosting the summit amid growing calls for him to suspend his re-election campaign to allow another Democrat to take on Donald Trump in November.

Trump, who leads Biden in most national and swing state polls, has threatened to withdraw from NATO if elected to another four-year term. The former president has also repeatedly promised to end military support for Ukraine.

According to interviews with former Trump national security officials and defence experts who are likely to serve in a second Trump term, Trump is unlikely to leave NATO altogether.

According to an analysis published in Politico, in exchange for continued US participation, Trump will not only expect European countries to substantially increase their spending on NATO, but will also undertake what has been described as a “radical reorientation” of the organisation.

Call for members to increase defence spending

Another area of concern is the need to increase defence budgets across NATO to ensure that all countries meet the 2 per cent of GDP spending target, while maintaining support for Kyiv.

This will be a key priority for Mark Rutte, who takes over from Stoltenberg on 1 October.

Alliance diplomats warn that this will be complicated by taxpayers’ resistance to increased defence budgets.

Managing internal tensions: Orban a cause for concern

Another challenge is managing divisions within the alliance, as illustrated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s controversial trip to Moscow last week to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Orban, one of NATO’s most prominent sceptics of supporting Kyiv, vetoed Rutte’s appointment last month, exempting him from NATO activities in support of Ukraine.

A Biden administration official told the FT that the US was “concerned” about Orban’s trip, which “will not advance the cause of peace or support Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

“Concerns always arise and we always prove that we are resilient,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO had always managed to resolve internal divisions since its creation in 1949.

Berlin and Washington’s objections to the joint statement

In the final negotiations of the summit declaration, the US and Germany led efforts to oppose the inclusion of a reference to Ukraine’s path to NATO membership being “irreversible”, as demanded by many other allies, especially in Eastern Europe.

US and German scepticism about Ukraine’s membership has not yet been overcome.

Officials say that Kyiv needs to undertake major structural reforms and that formal progress on membership is unlikely until the war is over.

A senior US State Department official told the FT: “Every time we have contact with the Ukrainians […] we have been clear about the limitations, the need for reform and the fact that part of their territory is occupied”.

Instead, NATO will offer Ukraine a package of support that includes control of much of the coordination of military aid to Kyiv, a role previously played by the US, and leadership of several national programmes to train Ukrainian troops in Poland.

The operation will not be officially labelled a “NATO mission” after Berlin, wary of anything implying that NATO is a direct participant in the conflict, refused to endorse such terminology as too militaristic.

Tougher language on China expected

Meanwhile, Nato allies are expected to agree on tougher language than before on China to condemn Beijing for its economic support for Moscow in the war in Ukraine.

China’s support includes increased supplies of technology such as microchips and chemicals intended for civilian use but used to make Russian weapons.

According to senior White House sources quoted by Hurriyet, the NATO summit will not only bring Ukraine closer to NATO and build a “bridge” to eventual membership, but will also send a message to China in the Pacific.

Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand will also attend the summit, which the senior official said would “send an important message to the world through our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region”.

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