Contains selective news articles I select

Archive for the ‘Military Alliance of NATO’ Category

NATO chief says US to consult allies on future troop plans

June 17, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — The United States remains committed to its European allies and has pledged to consult them on any future U.S. troop moves in Europe, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, after President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that he plans to pull thousands of personnel out of Germany.

Trump said Monday that he is ordering a major reduction in troop strength in Germany, from around 34,500 personnel down to 25,000. Members of his own party have criticized the move as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security. Germany is a hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa.

Speaking after chairing a video meeting of NATO defense ministers, Stoltenberg said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “stated very strongly that of course the U.S. stays committed to European security, and the United States will consult with other allies as we move forward.”

“No final decision has been made on how and when to implement the U.S. intention,” Stoltenberg said. Germany wasn’t notified of the move, which came after Trump branded its NATO ally “delinquent” for failing to pay enough for its own defense, by falling short of a goal set in 2014 for members to halt budget cuts and move toward spending at least 2% of gross national product on defense by 2024.

A number of NATO diplomats and officials have suggested the pullout — which would be costly and might not even be logistically possible before the U.S. elections in November — probably won’t happen. Stoltenberg said that the United States and Poland, in consultation with NATO, had decided to boost the U.S. troop presence there, but he provided no details.

Asked whether European allies and Canada are concerned that Trump might announce a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as the election approaches, NATO’s top civilian official said only that Esper had given the ministers a detailed briefing on U.S. plans.

Stoltenberg said more talks will take place among NATO allies and their partners in the conflict-ravaged country, but that any drawdown would be based on whether the Taliban are complying with their commitments to the peace agreement.

Separately, the ministers endorsed a series of measures they’ve been preparing for more than a year to respond to Russia’s development of nuclear capable medium-range missiles and hypersonic weapons, and what NATO says is Moscow’s intimidation of European allies.

Stoltenberg said a number of allies are buying new air and missile defense systems and some are investing in advanced fighter aircraft. The 30-nation military alliance is also boosting its intelligence gathering and sharing, and plans more war games.

Stoltenberg said the ministers also “decided on additional steps to keep the NATO nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective,” without elaborating. But he insisted that NATO countries don’t plan to “mirror Russia” by deploying new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.

NATO says its role not hit by virus as Russia drills troops

April 01, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the organization’s security capabilities have not been diminished by the coronavirus, amid suspicion that Russia might try to use the impact of disease to probe the military alliance’s defenses.

NATO acknowledges that cases of the disease have surfaced among personnel deployed near Russia’s border as well as in its training operation in Afghanistan. Wargames have been scaled down and the coronavirus has forced the 30-country alliance to cut staffing and meetings at its Brussels headquarters.

Russia, meanwhile, has been conducting drills that its defense ministry says are aimed at checking troop readiness to deal with any contagion. Britain’s navy said last week that its vessels had been shadowing Russian warships “after unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea.”

“We of course see significant military activities close to NATO borders with a new exercise in the western military district of Russia,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “We have seen significant Russian presence in the North Sea.”

“We have made some adjustments to exercises. We have cancelled some exercises, we have adjusted other exercises, but that doesn’t undermine our operational readiness. We continue to patrol the skies and defend our borders and continue our missions and operations,” he said.

Stoltenberg’s remarks came on the eve of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, to be held by secure video-conference for the first time in the U.S.-led organization’s 70-year history, where the impact of the coronavirus will dominate discussion.

While the disease is hitting all its member countries and could yet raise security concerns, NATO itself has no front-line role to play against its spread, apart from coordinating and supporting national efforts with logistical, transport and communications help.

NATO urges Syria, Russia to halt airstrikes as migrants move

February 29, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO on Friday called on Syria and Russia to halt their airstrikes following the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in northeastern Syria, as scores of migrants seeking entry into Europe gathered at Turkey’s border with Greece

With Turkey signalling that it would let migrants leave, Greece and neighboring Bulgaria bolstered border security. The European Union warned that the fighting in northern Syria could degenerate into open war and that it stood ready to protect its security interests.

After chairing emergency talks between NATO ambassadors, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Syria and Russia “to stop their offensive, to respect international law and to back U.N efforts for a peaceful solution.”

“This dangerous situation must be de-escalated and we urge an immediate return to the 2018 cease-fire to avoid the worsening of the horrendous humanitarian situation in the region,” Stoltenberg said. Turkey’s allies also expressed their condolences over the deaths, but no additional NATO support was offered during the meeting.

Apart from providing some aerial surveillance over Syria, NATO plays no direct role in the conflict-torn country, but its members are deeply divided over Turkey’s actions there, and European allies are worried about the arrival of any new waves of refugees.

The air strike by Syrian government forces marks the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016. It’s a major escalation in a conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces that has raged since early February.

Omer Celik, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, said Turkey was “no longer able to hold refugees” following the Syrian attack — reiterating Erdogan’s longstanding warning that his country cannot cope with more people fleeing the conflict.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrians and under a 2016 deal with the EU agreed to step up efforts to halt the flow of refugees to Europe. Since then, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to “open the gates,” playing on European nervousness about a new surge.

The Turkish DHA news agency reported that some 300 Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Moroccans and Pakistanis were gathering at the border with Greece, while others massed at beaches facing Greek islands off Turkey’s western coast.

Early Friday, Turkish broadcaster NTV showed images of dozens of people — carrying rucksacks, suitcases and plastic bags — crossing fields towards the Greek frontier. Near the Pazarkule border crossing with Greece, Turkish police stopped some 150 refugees about 1 kilometer (half a mile) from the border, preventing them from going further.

A Greek police official said dozens of people had gathered on the Turkish side of the land border in Greece’s Evros region, shouting “open the borders.” Police and military border patrols on the Greek side readied to prevent people crossing without authorization.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on the record to the press. In Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that “army units, national guard and border police staff have been urgently deployed at the border with Turkey to beat off a possible migrant influx.”

Borissov said that large groups of migrants were gathering by the border near the Turkish city of Edirne. He expressed concern that Turkish border police were moving away from the border. But EU spokesman Peter Stano said the bloc was waiting for an official analysis of reports about migrant movements before acting. He said Turkey had not officially signaled that it was changing its migrant policy.

“We expect Turkey to uphold its commitments,” Stano said. Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that “there is a risk of sliding into a major open international military confrontation. It is also causing unbearable humanitarian suffering and putting civilians in danger.”

In a tweet, Borrell called for the escalation around Idlib to “stop urgently,” and underlined that “the EU will consider all necessary measures to protect its security interests. We are in touch with all relevant actors.”

Turkey’s invasion of the north of the conflict-torn country — along with the criticism and threats of sanctions brandished by fellow allies at Ankara over the offensive — has come close to sparking a major crisis at NATO.

France in particular has tried to launch a debate on what Turkey’s allies should do if Ankara requests their assistance under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty — which requires all allies to come to the defense of another member under attack — but that discussion has not happened.

The allies are extremely reluctant to be drawn into a conflict of Turkey’s making.

Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece. Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed.

NATO in urgent talks after 33 Turkish troops killed in Syria

February 28, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO envoys were holding emergency talks Friday at the request of Turkey following the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in northeast Syria, as scores of migrants gathered at Turkey’s border with Greece seeking entry into Europe.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that Friday morning’s meeting of ambassadors would be held under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which allows any ally to request consultations if it feels its territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

The air strike by Syrian government forces marks the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016. It’s a major escalation in a conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces that has raged since early February.

At least 54 Turkish troops have now been killed in Idlib in that time. Omer Celik, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, said Turkey was “no longer able to hold refugees” following the Syrian attack — reiterating a longstanding warning from Erdogan that his country can no longer cope with the arrival of people fleeing the conflict.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrians and under a 2016 deal with the European Union agreed to step up efforts to halt the flow of refugees to Europe. Since then Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to “open the gates” in several disputes with European states.

DHA news agency reported that some 300 Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Moroccans and Pakistanis were gathering at the border with Greece, while others massed at beaches facing Greek islands off Turkey’s western coast.

A Greek police official said dozens of people had gathered on the Turkish side of the land border in Greece’s northeastern Evros region shouting “open the borders.” Greek police and military border patrols were deployed on the Greek side to prevent anyone trying to cross without authorization.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press on the record. Apart from providing some aerial surveillance over Syria, NATO plays no direct role in the conflict-torn country, but its members are deeply divided over Turkey’s actions there, and European allies are worried about any new wave of refugees arriving.

Turkey’s invasion of the north of the conflict-torn country — along with the criticism and threats of sanctions brandished by fellow allies at Ankara over the offensive — has come close to sparking a crisis at the military alliance.

France in particular has tried to launch debate on what Turkey’s allies should do if Ankara requests their assistance under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty — which requires all allies to come to the defense of another member under attack — but that discussion has not happened.

The allies are extremely reluctant to be drawn into a conflict of Turkey’s making, and particularly because Erdogan has used up a lot of good will by testing his fellow NATO members’ patience for quite a while.

The Syria offensive comes on top of tensions over Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S400 missiles, which threaten NATO security and the F-35 stealth jet. Erdogan also purged thousands of Turkish military officers following the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and some have sought, and been granted, asylum in Europe.

But despite high political-military tensions, Turkey is too important to eject from the 29-member alliance. Turkey is of great strategic importance to NATO. The large, mainly Muslim country straddles the Bosporus Strait, making it a vital bridge between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. It’s also the only waterway in and out of the Black Sea, where Russia’s naval fleet is based.

NATO allies also rely on the Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey as a staging point for access to the Middle East. The alliance runs aerial surveillance operations from Incirlik and the United States has nuclear weapons stationed there.

Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.

Next EU chief defends NATO after Macron criticism

November 08, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — The president-elect of the European Union’s executive Commission is defending NATO after French President Macron claimed that a lack of U.S. leadership is causing the military alliance’s “brain death.”

Ursula von der Leyen didn’t explicitly address Macron’s criticism in a speech Friday but said that, even though there has been “bumpiness” recently, “NATO has proven itself superbly as a protective shield of freedom.”

Macron said the European members of NATO “should reassess the reality” of what the alliance is in light of the U.S. commitment. Von der Leyen, who will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker in one of the EU’s top jobs in the coming weeks, said that “NATO was and is always what its member states make of it — it is up to 29 countries to participate and change something.”

Georgia ‘will join NATO’: Stoltenberg

Tbilisi (AFP)

March 25, 2019

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday reiterated the bloc’s commitment to grant former Soviet republic Georgia eventual membership despite Moscow’s fierce opposition.

Stoltenberg was in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to attend 12-day joint NATO-Georgia military exercises that kicked off last week.

“The 29 allies have clearly stated that Georgia will become a member of NATO,” Stoltenberg told a news conference alongside the country’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.

“We will continue working together to prepare for Georgia’s NATO membership.”

In an apparent reference to Russia, he said that no country had the right to influence NATO’s open-door policy.

“We are not accepting that Russia — or any other power — can decide what (NATO) members can do,” he said.

At a 2008 summit in Romania, NATO leaders said Georgia would join the bloc at an unspecified future date but have so far refused to put the country on a formal path to membership.

The prospect of Georgia joining NATO is seen by the Kremlin as a Western incursion into its traditional sphere of influence.

Bakhtadze said for his part that Moscow had no right to prevent a sovereign country from choosing “its security arrangements”.

“NATO membership is the choice of the Georgian people and is enshrined in our constitution,” he said.

Held at the Krtsanisi Georgia-NATO Joint Training and Evaluation Center outside Tbilisi, the joint drills involve 350 servicemen from the US, Britain, France, Germany and 17 other allied nations as well as Azerbaijan, Finland, and Sweden.

Tensions between Tbilisi and Moscow over Georgia’s pro-Western trajectory and control of the Black Sea nation’s breakaway regions led to a brief but bloody war in 2008.

During the conflict over Moscow-backed separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia routed Georgia’s small military in just five days and recognized the independence of the breakaway territories.

Moscow then stationed military bases there in what the West and Tbilisi have denounced as an “illegal military occupation.”

Last year, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Georgia’s eventual NATO entry “could provoke a terrible conflict”.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Georgia_will_join_NATO_Stoltenberg_999.html.

Trump floats idea of Brazil becoming NATO member

Washington (AFP)
March 19, 2019
President Donald Trump raised the possibility Tuesday that Brazil could become a member of NATO as he hosted far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for security talks at the White House.
“I… intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden.
“I have to talk to a lot of people, but maybe a NATO ally, which will greatly advance security and cooperation between our countries.”
Asked earlier as he hosted Bolsonaro in the Oval Office whether Brazil should be granted NATO privileges, Trump replied: “We’re looking at it very strongly. We’re very inclined to do that.”
“The relationship that we have right now with Brazil has never been better,” Trump added. “I think there was a lot of hostility with other presidents. There’s zero hostility with me.
“And we’re going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of whether it’s NATO or something having to do with alliance.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which marks 70 years since its founding in April, last month cleared the way for Macedonia to become its 30th member.
Trump has been unstinting in his criticism of NATO’s European members, accusing them of freeloading on the protection offered by the US military while not spending enough on their own armed forces.
Before taking office Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a NATO summit last July summit he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Source: Space War.

Macedonia admitted to NATO after resolving Greece dispute

FEB. 6, 2019

By Clyde Hughes

Feb. 6 (UPI) — Macedonia officially signed on Wednesday to become an official member of NATO, after resistance from Greece was settled last month.

Greece had long objected to membership over a dispute with the Macedonia name, which Athens uses for a Greek region in the north. Last month, the two countries settled the dispute when the country agreed to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. In exchange for the name change, Greece agreed to drop its veto toward Macedonia’s NATO admittance.

The signing allows the Balkan nation to take part in NATO activities as an invitee while the 29 member nations ratify the agreement in their own countries. Macedonia will formally change its name after Greece’s ratification.

“NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other,” NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Macedonia already contributes to NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan and the alliance’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

“This wasn’t inevitable — this wasn’t even very likely to happen,” Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said. “The impossible is actually doable. This is a family that strives to make our world more peaceful and a better place.

“This is a journey that has made us more mature… we have proven that we can assume our responsibility, face a problem, and resolve those problems.”

Macedonia and Greece have squabbled over the name — which has been around since Alexander The Great’s reign in the region during late B.C. — since 1991 when the country broke away from the former Yugoslavia.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/02/06/Macedonia-admitted-to-NATO-after-resolving-Greece-dispute/6431549457608/.

NATO chief says allies keen to avoid arms race with Russia

February 13, 2019

BRUSSELS (AP) — Taking aim at Russia, NATO’s civilian chief said Wednesday the alliance is studying a range of options to counter Moscow’s alleged missile treaty violations, and America’s top diplomat accused the Russians of having “grand designs” to dominate Europe.

In remarks at the outset of a NATO defense ministers meeting, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance is considering ways to counter Russian missiles without sparking an arms race. He called the missiles “a significant risk” to Europe.

In Poland, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Moscow’s efforts to divide the European Union and NATO and disrupt western democracies must be countered through boosting NATO’s presence. “Russia has grand designs of dominating Europe and reasserting its influence on the world stage. Vladimir Putin seeks to splinter the NATO alliance, weaken the United States and disrupt Western democracies,” he said.

“Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, its unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels this past November and its ongoing hybrid warfare against us and our allies are direct challenges to our security and to our way of life,” he added.

Pompeo made the comments while visiting a NATO forward position in northeast Poland about 70 kilometers from the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Because of Russia’s ongoing involvement in Ukraine, the U.S. and others take seriously the possibility that Moscow may try to open a new front along Europe’s eastern flank, Pompeo said. He said that threat underscores the indispensable nature of NATO — a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy for the past 70 years but the target of harsh criticism by President Donald Trump, who has cast the allies as freeloaders unwilling to foot the bill for their own defense.

Also throwing U.S. support behind NATO, Vice President Mike Pence told hundreds of Polish and U.S. troops in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, “We must stand together in defense of our alliance and all that we hold dear.”

Against the backdrop of rising Western tensions with Russia, the NATO meeting in Brussels focused initially on the expected demise of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, known as the INF treaty. The U.S. signed the pact with the Soviet Union in 1987. The allies are considering how to respond collectively to what they say are Russian violations of the treaty.

The United States on Feb. 2 launched the six-month process of leaving the INF treaty, insisting that a new Russian missile system violates the pact. Russia denies it is in contravention and has announced that it will pull out, too.

The INF bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,400 miles). European NATO allies insist that the pact is a cornerstone of continental security, although after Pompeo announced earlier this month that Washington was beginning the formal process of withdrawal, NATO publicly endorsed the move.

Speaking at NATO headquarters, where defense ministers are discussing what to do if the imperiled treaty is abandoned, Stoltenberg said: “This is very serious. We will take our time.” “Our response will be united,” he said. “It will be measured, and it will be defensive because we don’t want a new arms race. And we don’t have any intention to deploy new nuclear land-based weapon systems in Europe.”

Later, in remarks made alongside Pat Shanahan, the acting U.S. secretary of defense, Stoltenberg said, “We need to plan for a world without the treaty and with more Russian missiles.” Shanahan said he planned to brief his fellow ministers on his talks earlier this week in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he met with U.S. commanders and government leaders. NATO has roles in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shanahan, attending his first NATO meeting, said he also looked forward to talking to his colleagues about the future of the NATO alliance. “We need to talk more about our vision and what we can accomplish in a world that has so many changing threats,” he said.

NATO allies have little insight into Shanahan’s views, whereas they felt confident that Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense secretary in December, was an unwavering supporter of the alliance. Mattis implied in his resignation letter that President Donald Trump’s disrespect for traditional allies was among policy differences that compelled him to quit after two years in the job.

With regard to the expected termination of the INF treaty in August, Stoltenberg said that NATO has “a wide range of options, conventional and other options,” but he declined to list them, warning that any speculation “would just add to the uncertainty.”

U.S. officials have said there is no plan to deploy in Europe a nuclear-armed INF-class missile. They have said only non-nuclear options are under consideration and that decisions are not imminent. The Pentagon believes that Russia’s ground-fired Novator 9M729 cruise missile — known in NATO parlance as the SSC-8 — could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice. Russia insists it has a range of less than 500 kilometers. It claims that U.S. target-practice missiles and drones also break the treaty.

European NATO members are especially keen to avoid any nuclear build-up and a repeat of the missile crisis in the 1980s. NATO allies decided to deploy U.S. cruise and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles in Europe in 1983 as negotiations with Moscow faltered over its stationing of SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe.

— AP Diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Poland.

Greece backs Macedonia’s NATO accession, settles dispute

February 08, 2019

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s parliament on Friday approved a measure for Macedonia to join NATO, ending a decades-old dispute watched closely by Western allies wary of Russian influence in the region.

Lawmakers voted 153-140 to back the NATO protocol that must now also be approved by all other alliance members. The Greek vote means the former Yugoslav republic will now formally change its name to North Macedonia, settling the spat over the country’s name which Greece saw as a potential threat to its own northern region of Macedonia.

“I would like to again welcome North Macedonia, a country that is friendly toward Greece, a country that must be a supporter — and not an opponent — of our efforts to establish safety, stability, and cooperation in the wider region,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament shortly before the vote.

Western countries strongly backed the deal between Greece and Macedonia, after the country’s bid to join NATO had been shelved for a decade and amid European concerns over Russia’s vocal opposition to the alliance’s expansion further into the Balkans.

“Clearly it is in Greece’s interest to promote a European course for all its neighbors, not just for North Macedonia — and not (back) the influence of third forces in the neighborhood, with different aspirations and pursuits,” Tsipras said.

Tsipras had faced large demonstrations against the deal, while opinion polls showed that more than two-thirds of Greeks oppose it. The agreement also nearly toppled his government last month after triggering the breakup of his coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks party.

Greek opposition parties argued the agreement made too many concessions to Macedonia. “(We) will vote against the accession protocol because it is, simply, the final act or the final act of a damaging agreement,” conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament to applause from members of his party before the vote.

Greek approval of Macedonia’s NATO accession bid is the final step in the deal. Provided lawmakers vote for the motion, Greece’s foreign ministry will promptly notify the Macedonian government of the result.

Macedonia will then write to the United Nations, its member states and international organizations, formally announcing the name change. Government spokesman Mile Boshnjakovski told The Associated Press this would happen “in coming days.”

Konstantin Testorides contributed from Skopje, Macedonia.

Tag Cloud