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NATO Will Help Fight Pandemic, but Must Keep an Eye on Russia, Argues Stoltenberg

April 2, 2020 (EIRNS)—NATO has finally decided that it must be involved in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe but it must do so while keeping an eye out for so-called “Russian aggression.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reported today, that NATO foreign ministers, after meeting by videoconference, agreed to direct NATO commander Gen. Tod Wolters to coordinate the necessary military support to combat the novel coronavirus crisis and to start using fast-track paths through Europe’s airspace for military flights carrying medical supplies. Stoltenberg stressed, however, that NATO’s ostensible main task remains the protection of NATO’s almost 1 billion people, and that NATO’s ability to conduct operations had not been undermined.

In an interview with Reuters prior to the meeting, Stoltenberg complained that Russia still has not scaled back its own exercise activity.

“Moscow provided a notification that they were going to have a snap exercise, which they said was intended to test their capabilities to provide military support to the civil response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Stoltenberg said. The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the drills, carried out from March 25-28, would include medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops. “But we actually judge that this exercise was also used to demonstrate to NATO that they remain combat-ready despite COVID-19,” Stoltenberg said.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, vowed yesterday that despite the pandemic the U.S. will remain committed to defending Poland and the Baltic states. “We are absolutely committed to the security of Poland, the Baltic States, and our allies, but also our partners, such as Ukraine and Georgia,” she said, reported the Polish news agency PAP. “Potential threats will not cease to exist, our adversaries will not stop attempts to destabilize countries and will not stop rocket tests. Representing democracies, we must put security first.”

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