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NATO chief defends alliance, calls for Europe, US to work more closely

Press Conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (NATO/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

NATO’s secretary-general offered a robust defense of the alliance’s importance, downplaying disagreements over trade and defense policy, and calling on European allies and the United States to do more to work together.

Jens Stoltenberg’s comments on February 15, on the second day of the Munich Security Conference, came amid ongoing concerns about divisions within the alliance, and vocal criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We are 29 different allies, from different sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “But the differences we have today, we have been able to deal with them.”

The annual conference in the Bavarian city has long been a gathering of world leaders and has occasionally been conducted during times of strained U.S.-European relations, such as during the debate over the Iraq war in early 2003.

Trump has repeatedly asserted that NATO’s European allies were not spending enough in the defense budgets to support the alliance, and he has suggested doubts about the alliance’s core component: the treaty clause that stipulates an attack on one member is considered an attack on all members.

Earlier, Stoltenberg argued that the alliance was still committed to promoting democratic values and prosperity.

We have not lost our way, and our values have not lost their value. Freedom, democracy and rule of law have brought prosperity…remain a beacon of hope for people around the world,” he said.

“I don’t believe in Europe alone, as I don’t believe in America alone. I believe in Europe and America together,” Stoltenberg said.

On the conference’s first day, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested that Russia and China, along with the United States, were stoking global instability, as he warned of the danger that the three were slipping into a new “great power” competition and nuclear arms race.