US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the alliance, Ukraine and the Chinese balloon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss support for Ukraine, as well as efforts by Finland and Sweden to join the alliance. He also addressed the diplomatic tensions that followed last week’s sighting of an allegedly Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States.
“Last week, Beijing violated international law and US sovereignty with the presence of a Chinese surveillance balloon in US airspace,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference with Stoltenberg on Wednesday.
China, meanwhile, said the balloon was a “civilian” craft collecting weather data and had veered off course.
Blinken said the US would share findings about the balloon, which was shot down off the US East Coast over the weekend, with the US Congress and allies around the world. He added that efforts by the US Navy to recover parts of the balloon are underway.
“We analyze them to learn more about [Chinese] surveillance program,” he said, adding that China presents “systemic and tactical challenges” to the NATO alliance.
The meeting is taking place at a time when the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is approaching. Western governments have responded to the conflict with a significant influx of military aid to Ukraine and efforts to isolate Russia on the world stage.
“Putin launched his illegal war of aggression almost a year ago,” Stoltenberg said. “Since then, NATO allies have provided unprecedented support to Ukraine. About $120 billion in military, humanitarian and financial aid.”
Blinken said the US has sent nearly $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the conflict began last February, not including humanitarian and economic aid.
The Russian invasion has prompted several European countries, including Sweden and Finland, to push for membership in NATO, a joint defense alliance that traces its roots to the Cold War.
Blinken told reporters that the US is “very focused” on bringing Sweden and Finland into NATO, calling the two countries “strong democracies” and “trusted partners.”
Those efforts were met with objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary. To secure membership for new countries, the unanimous approval of 30 members of the alliance is required.
Russia has long been critical of NATO expansion. Its defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, also warned earlier this week that Western supplies of military equipment to Ukraine risked fueling an “unpredictable” escalation, “drawing NATO countries into the conflict.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO members should continue to increase their military spending, citing the challenges of a “more dangerous and competitive world.”
In December 2022, the US Congress passed a spending package that increased US military spending, already the largest in the world, by an additional 10 percent, bringing the total to an enormous $858 billion.