The foreign minister of the largest and militarily most important NATO member traditionally gives the final press conference at NATO Council meetings. Anthony Blinken from the USA did the same after the Bucharest meeting and thus retains the authority to interpret what was really important in the deliberations in Romania.

While the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, was already on her way to the next meeting, this time the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Lodz, Poland, after a brief statement, Blinken made the Alliance’s course clear in detail.

He strongly condemned the warfare of the Russian ruler Vladimir Putin because he was attacking the infrastructure in Ukraine across the board in order to deprive the people of their livelihood. “He directs his fire at civilians. This brutalization of warfare is barbaric,” said Blinken in Bucharest’s monumental marble palace, which the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had built in the 1980s and now houses Romania’s parliament.

NATO is more united than ever, Blinken said. “His strategy hasn’t worked out so far and it won’t work. We will prove Putin wrong.” The United States has so far shipped weapons worth $19 billion to Ukraine. According to Blinken, all other 29 NATO countries have contributed a further 21 billion dollars.

In Bucharest, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba repeated his call for more missile defense in Ukraine. “We need Patriots,” Kuleba said. However, it is very uncertain whether the United States or other allies, such as Germany, could move Patriot-type defense systems to Ukraine.

The systems would still have to be operated by NATO soldiers, otherwise months of training would be required for Ukrainian soldiers. However, this would inevitably make NATO a direct party to the war, which it has always wanted to avoid at all costs. It is not NATO as an organization that is equipping Ukraine, but the individual member states are doing this bilaterally.

US Secretary of State Blinken indicated that the US is at least thinking about strengthening its missile defense system. “We are urgently working to repair as much of the infrastructure as possible. At the same time, we have to defend the infrastructure as well as possible. Our military planners are now thinking about that,” said Blinken. There is no point in rebuilding power plants and power lines that would then be destroyed again by Russian attacks. The US Secretary of State did not give details.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that the “discussions about the Patriots are continuing.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was also vague. “Military support and winter aid are two sides of the same coin. Of course, we are constantly in contact with Ukraine and NATO on how we can strengthen self-defence,” said Baerbock in Bucharest.

NATO diplomats do not see Germany moving Patriot units directly to Ukraine, as suggested by Poland. NATO must give its consent to this, since the Patriots are integrated into NATO’s air defense system. In addition, the USA would have a say, since they had made the Patriot system available to the Bundeswehr.

On the second day of its meeting in Romania, NATO not only formally addressed Russia, but also, for the first time, the challenges and threats posed by China, which presents itself as a close ally of Russia.

In the Alliance’s new strategic concept, the Chinese communist dictatorship is seen as a long-term competitor and systemic rival. “We don’t want a conflict with China. We want to avoid conflicts. We don’t want a cold war,” Secretary of Defense Anthony Blinken said. “We don’t want to decouple the economic areas, but we have to see the challenges with a clear view.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added that the current conflict with Russia shows how dangerous dependencies on one supplier and a single supply chain are. More independence and resilience are required. “We have to recognize our dependencies, reduce our vulnerability and manage risks,” Stoltenberg demanded.

Chinese products are to be kept out of critical infrastructure in Europe and the USA. Exports of security-related technology to China should be avoided, according to NATO considerations. However, not all 30 member states are on the same strict course as NATO’s leading power, the USA. “Agreement in NATO and also with the European Union is increasing,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

But China is needed to influence Russia and work towards peace in Ukraine, said Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. “China is currently Russia’s best friend. If you want to achieve anything in Russia, you need China. It’s not easy,” Tajani told Deutsche Welle. Economic relations and the market in China are also extremely important. “It’s not about expanding NATO to Asia,” said US Secretary of State Blinken.

NATO on Wednesday held consultations with Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina, three countries under different pressures over Russia’s attack on Ukraine. NATO wants to continue military cooperation with Georgia, whose provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied by Russia.

Georgia is aiming to join the alliance, which it was promised at a summit meeting here in Bucharest in 2008. Moldova’s energy supply has been badly affected by Russian attacks on neighboring Ukraine. The country is to receive winter aid from the NATO countries. In politically unstable Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russian influence, which is primarily exerted through the Bosnian Serbs, is to be pushed back. “Bosnia-Herzegovina is extremely important,” Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon told DW in Bucharest.

“We want the country to be granted candidate status for the European Union by the end of the year. That would be a strong political signal that would have repercussions throughout the Western Balkans. We won’t leave any country behind there,” says Tanja Fajon.

All Balkan countries must be supported because they are all at the mercy of different geopolitical interests. Alongside Slovenia, Croatia is already a member of NATO and the European Union. Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina do not belong to any of the organizations. Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania are members of NATO.

Author: Bernd Riegert (Bucharest)

The original of this article “US thinking about stronger missile defense for Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.