Joe Biden speaks during a meeting at the NATO summit in Washington on July 10, 2024.

Joe Biden speaks during a meeting at the NATO summit in Washington on July 10, 2024. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The 32-member NATO alliance on Wednesday harshly called out China for its role in propping up Russia’s war against Ukraine and declared that Ukraine was on an “irreversible” path to membership in the military alliance.

A summit declaration released at the alliance’s ongoing meetings in Washington includes language that for the first time names China as a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war economy while also committing continued support for Ukraine to eventually obtain NATO membership.

“It is not a question of if, but when,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said of Ukraine’s bid to join the alliance.

He said allies on Wednesday agreed to provide at least $40 billion in funding to Kyiv in the next year, as well as establish a new command to coordinate the majority of multinational aid and training for Ukraine’s military.

“We are not doing this because we want to prolong the war, we are doing this because we want to end the war as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the end of the second day of the summit.

Allies also pledged to take steps to boost their domestic defense industrial capacity to help the alliance revive production lines that had atrophied after the end of the Cold War.

Stoltenberg focused much of his remarks on language that for the first time sharply criticizes the growing partnership between Russia and China and demands China stop “all material and political support for Russia’s war effort.”

Beijing has not provided weapons to Moscow, but it is sending dual-use equipment, microelectronics and other tools that Stoltenberg said enables Russia to “build the missiles, to build the bombs, to build the aircraft, to build the weapons they’re using to attack Ukraine.”

The declaration is “the strongest message allies have ever sent” on China’s contribution, he said. It states China’s actions cannot continue without impacting the interests and reputation of Beijing, Stoltenberg said.

“I think the message sent from NATO, from this summit, is very strong and very clear and we are clearly defining China’s responsibility when it comes to enabling Russia’s war aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

NATO on Thursday will meet with four Indo-Pacific partners — Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan — to discuss how to further strengthen cooperation.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday said NATO and its partners will launch four new joint projects focused on Ukraine, artificial intelligence, disinformation and cyber security.

Beijing has reacted negatively to the impending initiatives, accusing NATO of “breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defense zone and stoking confrontation.”

NATO until Wednesday had largely avoided making any statements challenging China. It first officially mentioned China as a concern in 2019.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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