Stoltenberg (NATO): “No no-fly zone, we give more weapons to Kiev and we strengthen ourselves in the East”

Of Francesca Basso

The secretary general speaks: «We must adapt the Atlantic alliance to the world that changes and becomes more competitive. Russia and China act together “

from our correspondent

BRUSSELS – «Either we believe in democracy and freedom or not. I believe in democratic values ​​and NATO protects them. Russia no, it violates them. It is the difference between democracy and autocracy ». The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg,
answers the questions of the Courier service at the end of the meeting of NATO defense ministers. And thus he explains why the slogan “neither with NATO nor with Russia” is not understandable to him.

The latest news on the war in Ukraine

He said we are at a decisive moment for European security. What do you mean?

“We are faced with a new reality, Russia is contesting the principles at the heart of our security: the right of each nation to choose its own path and the right of NATO to defend its allies. Moscow is willing to use force to achieve its goals: invaded Ukraine, an independent and peaceful nation. And it tries to influence NATO by asking to withdraw all our forces from the countries that joined the Alliance after 1997. We have 30 members, of which 14 joined after that date. Therefore, Russia expects a sort of second-class membership for these countries, so we would not have the right to protect them as we do with Italy or any other allied country. This is the new reality ».

How long can Ukraine resist the Russian attack? A NATO peacekeeping mission is needed for Poland.

«President Putin has totally underestimated the strength and courage of the Ukrainian army, citizens and political leadership. NATO has for years provided support to the Ukrainians, providing military equipment and training thousands of troops who are now on the front lines. I do not want to speculate on future developments, but the Allies will continue with their support, we will continue to impose heavy costs with sanctions and we will strengthen our presence in the East among the Alliance countries to prevent an escalation. We support the efforts for peace, the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, but we have no intention of deploying NATO troops in Ukraine because NATO is not a party to the conflict ».

Yesterday Moscow asked the US to stop supplying weapons to Kiev. And President Zelensky to close the airspace.

«Ukraine is a sovereign and independent nation, with a democratically elected government, it has the right to defend itself. We help Ukraine to defend its right. And the allies also confirmed this at the meeting of defense ministers: we will continue with our support. We provide anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, but a no-fly zone implies attacking or shooting down Russian aircraft, because the no-fly zone is not something that is declared but that is imposed and this would lead to a war between NATO and Russia with even greater destruction”.

The Baltics and Poland fear a Russian attack even if they are in NATO. Should Finland and Sweden join to be safer?

“NATO preserves peace and prevents conflicts. Our collective defense clause says that if an ally is attacked, the whole Alliance responds. There is no misunderstanding about our commitment, we have increased the presence of NATO troops in the East, I recently met the Italian pilots in Romania and I want to commend Italy for its contribution to our collective defense. The message to Russia is that we protect our allies and this is a credible deterrent that has preserved the peace for over 70 years. Finland and Sweden are sovereign nations, it’s up to them to decide ».

How do you judge the role of Italy in this crisis?

“Italy is a founding member of NATO, it is a very valid ally that makes an important contribution to collective defense, it has contributed to the strengthening of battlegroup in the Baltic region, it supplies ships and aircraft, and has played a key role in the Western Balkans, with its presence in Kosovo. Italy has a very clear position in condemning the invasion, in imposing sanctions, in providing support ».

How will the June strategic concept, which will define NATO’s future strategy, be affected by the war?

«We must adapt NATO to a changing world. Invest more in our security because peace is the precondition for everything we do. We must continue to modernize our forces and strengthen our presence in the East. Lo strategic concept it will reflect this new reality but we must also remember that we face a more competitive world, where Russia and China act together. And then there are also the threats of terrorism and cybersecurity: NATO must respond to all this ».

EU countries have decided to spend more on defense. Should it have been done first?

«NATO decided to increase military spending as early as 2014 at the summit in Wales, after the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea. Now the invasion of Ukraine has accelerated the process. Germany has announced that it will spend more than 2% of its GDP, Denmark 2%. 90% of the population protected by NATO lives in the EU. 80% of defense spending comes from non-EU countries: Norway, Turkey, United States, Canada, Great Britain. This decision of the EU countries is positive ».

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