NATO and the EU are trying to step up cooperation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the European security order, according to a joint statement seen by AFP on Monday.
The two Brussels-based organizations have been trying to improve coordination for years, although there are fears in some quarters that efforts to boost the EU’s defense role could undermine the US-led alliance.
The invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls for better use of the combined clout of Europe’s economic power and the might of the US military to better protect the billion citizens who live in the member states.
“This is a crucial point for Euro-Atlantic security and stability, which demonstrates more than ever the importance of the transatlantic link and calls for closer cooperation between the EU and NATO,” said the statement, which was made by senior NATO officials and the EU is scheduled to be released Tuesday.
“As the security threats and challenges we face continue to evolve in scope and scale, we will take our partnership to the next level.”
The statement points to combating “increasing geostrategic competition”, protecting critical infrastructure and dealing with threats from new technologies and in space as important areas for deeper cooperation.
27 member states in NATO
Twenty-one of the 27 member states of the European Union are already in NATO, and Sweden and Finland are currently pushing for membership.
The statement said the bodies “play complementary, coherent and mutually reinforcing roles in support of international peace” and pledged to “further mobilize” their political, economic and military strength.
It is signed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Efforts led by France to strengthen the EU’s defense role have sparked nervousness among Eastern European countries that see Washington as the mainstay of their security.
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Since February’s invasion of Moscow, Washington has increased its troop levels in Europe to more than 100,000 troops, while NATO conducts its biggest defense overhaul since the end of the Cold War.
The joint declaration – the first since 2018 – makes it clear that the Alliance remains “the basis of collective defence” for its members and the entire Euro-Atlantic area.
But it also says: “We recognize the value of a stronger and more capable European defense that contributes positively to global and transatlantic security and is complementary and interoperable with NATO.”
The US has long urged its European allies to spend more on their militaries, counter cyber threats and strengthen infrastructure across the continent needed for rapid troop rotation.
Washington has also pressured Europe to take a tougher stance on the perceived threat posed by China’s growing power.
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“China’s growing assertiveness and policies pose challenges we must face,” the joint statement said.