By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Germany for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on the war in Ukraine. In a joint press conference, Stoltenberg and Baerbock outlined their respective view on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and further steps that need to be taken to strengthen NATO and the EU position.
Stoltenberg reiterated that the alliance must prevent what’s happening in Ukraine from spilling over into neighboring countries. He praised Germany for its stepping up to provide Ukraine with humanitarian, financial and military aid. Baerbock said: “Every day, we are a witness of atrocious crimes in Putin’s war against the people of Ukraine.” She questioned Putin’s rationale: “What military aim can there be in destroying a maternity clinic? What aim can there be in destroying a theater where people were seeking shelter with a large sign over that read children in huge letters.”
The German foreign minister explained: “Like so many, others cannot simply defend themselves. This is our job as the European Union and today in our G7 virtual foreign ministers’ meetings, we agreed we need to work closely in the EU and also on the framework of the G7 countries. And I know all our partners in NATO want to join forces to tackle this humanitarian tragedy.” Baerbock said in light of the fact that Moldova is being directly affected by the war in Ukraine and that it has stepped in to take refugees despite its being a tiny country, she said there was an agreement at the G7 meeting that a support group for Moldova will be created. She added: “We want to stand with Moldova to support them in this current crisis and in the future.” Baerbock further commented: “We will have a crisis meeting for Moldova in this very dark hour. We must allow the light of humanity to shine.”
The NATO chief said: “German leadership and Germany’s leading role in our lives is crucial and a turning point for European security.” Stoltenberg added: “NATO’s response has been “swift and decisive” adding that “Germany’s efforts here are critical.” Stoltenberg pointed out that because the EU is now facing a “new reality” that the alliance has now set “our deterrence and defense in the longer term.” “Germany is leading by example,” Stoltenberg emphasized by investing in “fifth generation” aircraft and “increasing their budget.”
Meanwhile, Baerbock stressed: “Russia, in the most brutal way has destroyed this agreement,” referring to the NATO accord with Russia. She said: “In light of this infringement, we cannot simply go back to business as usual.” Baerbock added: “We absolutely condemn this flagrant breach of international law.” She reiterated Stoltenberg when she commented “this is the time to protect ourselves.” Because of the breach of this agreement, Baerbock reiterated, “we see ourselves in having to reinforce our military.” Stoltenberg added that NATO has “increased its defense by hundreds of thousands of troops” across the lines especially on the eastern flank. He said the number of German forces has doubled with a bolstered defense “on land, sea and air.” Stoltenberg said this sends a message to Moscow that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” “Based on advice from NATO defense ministers, we will take further decisions,” Stoltenberg commented. He also added a crucial caveat: “Deterrence of defense is not about provoking a conflict, it is about preventing conflict.”
The NATO chief said that at next week’s NATO Summit that the consequences of Russia’s invasion will be a major topic. He also reiterated: “North America and Europe stand united in NATO, determined to protect our people and our values.” Stoltenberg also reiterated that there should be no “misunderstanding” or “miscalculation” with Russia about the actions NATO and the alliance are prepared to take. He praised Germany for “your leadership and your strong message.”