The top United States commander in Europe is warning of Chinese investment in European ports and increases in Russian submarine activity outside of Europe.
Air Force General Tod Wolters is commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He spoke to the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee earlier this week.
Wolters told the committee that “China has access to 10% of the shipping rights into and out of Europe.”
“It is very alarming,” he said. “When you control the ability to take in and regulate resources, you have a large impact on what actually exists on the continent with respect to its ability to effectively generate peace and security.”
Wolters added that China has invested an “economic majority” in seaports across Europe, including in Belgium, Italy, France and Greece. All four countries are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The general also expressed concern about the Chinese company Huawei’s 5G wireless technology. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper noted the same concerns at a security conference in Munich earlier this month. He warned that China was seeking gains over the United States and its allies in Europe “by any means and at any cost.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also spoke at the Munich meeting. He warned that Western allies should not risk security for short-term economic gains with China. To do so would risk dividing European allies and dividing Europe from America, he said.
Wolters told the U.S. lawmakers that the use of Huawei’s 5G technology is an intelligence threat to U.S. soldiers in Europe. He said that without the right protection, personal and technical information are at risk of being stolen.
Last month, Britain decided not to ban Huawei equipment in its new 5G network. But Wolters said he was pleased by several other nations’ unwillingness to accept Huawei’s 5G technology.
He warned there must first be “a common understanding at the political level at NATO” that Chinese economic aggression in Europe is an actual threat.
Wolters also spoke about Russian submarine activity. He noted that in 2018 and 2019, the U.S. military reported “a 50 percent increase in the number of resources” Russia committed to submarine operations outside of Europe.
Wolters added, “This observation is one more reflection about how important it is to continue to improve our competitive edge ... to ensure that we can operate with freedom.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Carla Babb reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
access – n. the right or ability to approach, enter, or use
alarming – adj. causing people to feel danger or alarm or to be worried or frightened
network – n. a system of computers and other devices such as printers that are connected to each other
regulate – v. to make rules or laws that control something
resource – n. a supply of something such as money that someone has and can use when it is needed