US President Joe Biden used his first appearance at a Nato summit to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back from provocative actions targeting the US and its allies.
Mr Biden’s sharp words for Russia and his friendly interactions with Nato allies marked a clear shift in tone from the past four years.
They also highlighted the renewed US commitment to the 30-country alliance that was frequently maligned by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Mr Biden, wearing a Nato lapel pin, said that in his extensive talks with other leaders about his planned meeting with Mr Putin on Wednesday, all were supportive of his plans to press the Russian leader to halt Russian-originated cyber attacks against the West, end the violent stifling of political dissidents and stop interfering in elections outside its borders.
“I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses,” Mr Biden told reporters as he ended his day at Nato headquarters.
“And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond, we will respond in kind.”
Mr Biden is on an eight-day visit to Europe in which he is seeking to rally allies to speak with a single voice on countering Russia and China.
To that end, Nato leaders on Monday declared China a constant security challenge and said the Chinese are working to undermine global order, a message in sync with Mr Biden’s pleas to confront Beijing on China’s trade, military and human rights practices.
In a summit statement, the leaders said that China’s goals and “assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security”.
The Nato leaders also took a swipe at Russia in their communique, deploring what they consider its aggressive military activities and its snap wargames near the borders of Nato countries as well as repeated violations of their airspace by Russian planes.
They said that Russia had ramped up “hybrid” actions against member countries by attempts to interfere in elections, by political and economic intimidation, by disinformation campaigns and “malicious cyber activities”.
“Until Russia demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, there can be no return to ‘business as usual,’” they said.