The notion that NATO “woke up” on February 24 to Russia’s sudden invasion of Ukraine is completely false, says Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Russian military aggression in Ukraine “is one of the most anticipated military operations in history,” and the Alliance, he stresses, has been supporting the country not since the day, but since 2014, when the illegal annexation of Crimea took place. Allied countries must now be ready to support Ukraine in the long term, Stoltenberg warns in an interview with several European media outlets, in which he highlights the courage shown by the army, political leaders and people of Ukraine.
relations with China
“Freedom means more than free trade, and values are more important than profit”
At what point is the war?
We are facing the most serious security crisis that Europe has experienced since the end of World War II. We are facing total war in a European country, a brutal war with civilian casualties and modern military equipment. President Putin made a big strategic mistake: he planned to achieve his goals in a week, and we have been at war for thirteen weeks. Russian troops have been expelled from Kyiv and Kharkov in the north of the country, and Ukrainian troops have violently responded to the Russian offensive in the Donbass (…), all combined with unprecedented support from NATO.
What is your role in this crisis? To what extent does Russia pose a threat to the Alliance?
NATO’s first task is to help Ukraine. Wars are unpredictable and no one can say how and when this war will end, but we must be prepared to maintain our support in the long run. It is more and more a war of attrition, with casualties on both sides, a huge need for ammunition, fuel and reinforcements. It is not only about bringing in new equipment, but also about maintaining the delivered material in working condition. Another role for NATO is to prevent escalation, because its main duty is to protect and protect the nearly one billion people living in their countries. The war that we see in Ukraine is terrible and brutal, there are civilian casualties, bombings, devastation and destroyed cities. But if this escalates into a full-scale war between NATO and Russia, it will cause much more destruction and damage to all of Europe. Therefore, we have an obligation to act in a way that does not contribute to or lead to an escalation of the conflict. We make it clear that NATO supports Ukraine, but it does not participate in the war, we only support its right to self-defense, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. (…) After the Russian invasion, we increased the strength of the troops in the east of the Alliance to 40,000, supported by a significant naval and air force. The goal is not to provoke a war, but to prevent it, keep the peace and avoid confusion or misunderstanding in Moscow about NATO’s readiness to defend and protect all allies. Our motto is “One for all and all for one”. If an ally is attacked by all of us, the entire Alliance will respond.
“China is trying to control our critical infrastructures like 5G”
Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO. How serious are Turkish reservations?
My goal remains a fast accession process, but as always in NATO, we need the agreement of all 30 allies. We should sit down and talk about how it’s done and resolve differences. I am sure that we will succeed. We must also recognize that Turkey is an important country and when an ally says they have a problem, it needs to be addressed.
The requirement for membership of two traditionally neutral European countries is not the only thing that has changed as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. For Stoltenberg, the war confirms that dealing with authoritarian regimes has security implications, so he urges governments to rethink their policies if they don’t want to find out in a few years that their dependence on Chinese raw materials, technology and infrastructure is as dangerous as Russian gas dependence.
“NATO will have to face the consequences of China’s rise”
“I have been a strong supporter of free trade and globalization because it has helped us make progress and contributed to global prosperity. But we must understand that our economic decisions have security implications, and take this into account, especially when we make deals with authoritarian regimes, ”says the secretary general. “Freedom is more important than free trade. Protecting values is more important than profit. If we have to choose between free trade and freedom, let’s choose freedom,” he defends.
Stoltenberg will travel to Madrid on Monday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Spain’s accession to the military organization and prepare for an allied summit in late June that will update NATO’s strategic concept, its vision of the world. The new document will advocate capacity building in the east of the European continent to counter the threat from Russia, a country that the 2010 document names as a strategic partner and which will for the first time face problems related to relations with China. , a country that is not even mentioned in the current text.
“We are seeing Chinese attempts to control critical infrastructure such as 5G networks, which are of the utmost importance to our security. All of these issues mean we must face the security implications of a rising China,” Stoltenberg says, urging countries to learn from Russia’s behavior in its dealings with China. “Now it is obvious that it is not good to depend on Russian gas like that. I think European allies are now realizing that with so much energy coming from Russia, they are becoming vulnerable. That is why we must assess the security implications of economic decisions such as over-reliance on the goods of authoritarian regimes.”
“The war in Ukraine can continue, we must be ready”
Another important aspect is technology. “If we engage in seemingly civilian and peaceful scientific collaboration and share critical technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing with potential adversaries, we are giving them the tools to threaten us. The new weapons will be drones with artificial intelligence and facial recognition, dangerous systems that depend on very advanced technologies,” he says.
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