Freedom and security more important than profit, NATO chief tells Davos

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO, addresses a panel session during the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, 24 May 2022. [EPA-EFE/GIAN EHRENZELLER]

Western countries should not trade security for economic profit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday (24 May), pointing to the risks of leaving close economic ties with Russia and China unchecked.

“We must recognise that our economic choices have consequences for our security: Freedom is more important than free trade, the protection of our values is more important than profit,” Stoltenberg told business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Globalisation had brought many economic benefits, Stoltenberg acknowledged but pointed out that Russia’s war in Ukraine had exposed how too close ties with authoritarian regimes have created vulnerabilities.

“Some of this trade, some of this interaction with authoritarian regimes, is undermining our security – and then we have to chose security instead of vulnerability and over-reliance on authoritarian regimes,” he said.

In reference to Nord Stream 2 pipeline, designed to double the flow of Russian gas through the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, Stoltenberg said it has been a lesson learned.

Berlin halted the project when Russia formally recognised two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent, days before sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what Moscow describes as a “special military operation”.

“So this idea that we should have free trade in natural gas, meaning we can buy as much gas from Russia as we want, that’s wrong, it’s dangerous,” Stoltenberg warned.

“It provides Russia with a tool to intimidate and to use against us, and that has been clearly demonstrated now, I regret to say,” he added.

“If we share the technology, we may earn the money but undermine western security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is about Russia, but it is also about China.”

Washington has long pressed European and other countries to exclude Chinese technology from 5G networks.

Washington sees Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei as an arm of the ruling Communist Party’s global surveillance machinery.

Huawei, which is playing a leading role as the telecoms world gears up for next generation wireless technology, has repeatedly denied spying for the Chinese state.

“I am not arguing against trade with China, but I am saying that for instance, the control over 5G networks is of vital security importance,” he said.

“We cannot say that in the interest of profits and free trade we just open up those networks also for suppliers that actually are not reliable when it comes to our security,” Stoltenberg added.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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