NATO’s top official has warned that its member states face existential threats to their safety, democracy and way of life from both terrorism and nations like Russia and China.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made the remarks at a meeting of the bosses of the bloc’s armed forces on Wednesday. His comments were reported in a statement by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the British chairman of NATO’s military committee.
According to the communique, Stoltenberg “urged Allies to continue to increase defense spending, invest in modern capabilities and to ensure our military remains ready to deal with challenges such as Russia’s aggressive actions, terrorism and the risks posed by the rise of China.”
He also stressed that “our democracies, our values, and the rules-based order are being challenged.” Stoltenberg’s rhetoric, however, failed to account for the fact its members include five nations that the US government-funded Freedom House says are not democratic states: Albania, Hungary, Montenegro, Macedonia and Turkey.
As well as rival states in the East, the missive also pointed to the evolving threat of terrorism as evidenced by the rise of IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS), as well as conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It urged its members to step up the funding for their armed forces, adding that “NATO is the world’s most successful military alliance because we adapt.”
Russia has previously warned that NATO activity near its borders has increased in recent months. In December, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told local media that there had been a number of close calls when vessels and warplanes came close to the country’s borders.
“In 2020, the activity of [NATO’s] air and naval forces has increased significantly, and situations that can lead to serious incidents are increasingly emerging,” Fomin said. “These actions were openly provocative. The incidents were avoided only thanks to the high level of professional training of Russian pilots and sailors.”
The month before, a US-led exercise in Romania that saw missiles land in the Black Sea caused alarm on the Crimean Peninsula. American troops airlifted in M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) launchers from their bases in Germany specifically for the drills. The deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament claimed at the time that it had created an impression that NATO was preparing for “an armed invasion of the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Late last year, the bloc said that it had set its sights firmly on Russia. An analysis published by Stoltenberg’s office argued that Moscow engages in “assertive policies and aggressive action,” which has “negatively impacted the security of the Euro-Atlantic area.”
“In the long term until 2030, Russia is likely to remain the main military threat to the North Atlantic Alliance,” the authors of the report said.
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