Sunday, October 17, 2021

NATO chief warns coalition should not be underestimated

Top NATO officials are indicating that it would be a mistake to view the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan or the escalating tensions between France and the United States as a weakening of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Instead, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned the adversary that NATO would remain unified and resolute against threats from old adversaries and increasing numbers from new adversaries.

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“There are questions being asked about the strength of the relationship between Europe and North America,” Stoltenberg told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington after several meetings with top US officials.

FILE – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on August 20, 2021.

“They don’t change the big picture,” he said. “We don’t know what the next crisis will be, but we do know that whatever happens, we are safe when we stand together.”

Notably, Stoltenberg pushed back against allegations that US President Joe Biden alienated NATO allies when he decided to make good on a previous US administration deal to pull US troops from Afghanistan.

“The idea that the United States did not consult is wrong,” Stoltenberg said. “That’s really wrong.”

The NATO leader also said that while France was “disappointed” by a new security agreement between the US, the United Kingdom and Australia – the so-called AUKUS deal in which the US and UK would share technology with Australia to help build nuclear-powered submarines – “NATO allies agree on the big picture that we need to stand together as we work together with our Asia-Pacific partners.”

“China has the second largest defense budget in the world. They are investing heavily in new military capabilities, including long-range nuclear weapons systems,” Stoltenberg said. “I hope that the upcoming new strategic concept for NATO will reflect a more comprehensive and integrated position of what really belongs to China.”

But the NATO secretary general saved his toughest point for Russia, warning that relations between NATO and Moscow “are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.”

“They have deployed new, advanced weapon systems. They have violated one of the cornerstones of arms control, the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), which banned all intermediate-range weapon systems,” he said. given,” he said. “And we have seen a more aggressive Russia abroad, in many places, and then a more repressive Russia at home.”

FILE - This handout photo released by Russia's Ministry of Defense on April 22, 2021 shows Russian Navy ships preparing to land troops during an exercise in Crimea, a peninsula Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014 .

FILE – This handout photo released by Russia’s Ministry of Defense on April 22, 2021 shows Russian Navy ships preparing to land troops during an exercise in Crimea, a peninsula Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014 .

And Stoltenberg went even further, punishing Moscow for its stance on NATO expansion, particularly its opposition to membership for Georgia and Ukraine.

“It is right for any sovereign nation to have its own way. The whole idea that it is provoking Russia to have smaller neighbors join NATO is absolutely wrong,” he said. “It’s provocative that someone is saying that.”

Stoltenberg declined to say when Georgia or Ukraine could gain NATO membership, calling it a matter for both countries and the coalition and “no one else.”

Stoltenberg also said that during his time in Washington, particularly during his meeting with Biden on Monday, he encouraged NATO members to do more to help interested members.

“We need to step up and do more for those interested countries, because unless they are members, we need more support, more training, more capacity building, implementing reforms, fighting corruption and maintaining security and defense institutions. should help build up.” Stoltenberg said.

“We need to establish that there is a lot between nothing and full membership,” he said.

The White House reported Monday’s meeting that the two leaders “discussed NATO’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the international security environment and transatlantic defence.”

It also said Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for NATO and the importance of strengthening deterrence and defense against strategic competitors and international threats.”

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