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Stoltenberg: 'We are in a difficult and challenging security environment in Europe'

On the latest edition of DW's "Conflict Zone," host Tim Sebastian interviewed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg denied that a new Cold War with Russia was dawning and rejected the suggestion that NATO had failed to deter Russia both in Syria and Crimea, saying the alliance's primary responsibility was to protect its members.

"We are not in a Cold War. Partly because we don't have the two military blocks confronting each other, the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The Warsaw Pact doesn't exist anymore, the Soviet Union doesn't exist," the former Norwegian prime minister said. He conceded that "we are in a difficult and challenging security environment in Europe, we are not in the partnership we tried to develop after the Cold War."

Stoltenberg said: "I see a more assertive Russia which has implemented a substantial build-up and that is exactly why NATO has implemented their biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War with deployment of troops in the Baltic region and Poland. We have tripled the size of the NATO response force to 40,000 troops and we have established a joint task force."

He added: "We are ready to deploy forces on very short notice. We don't see any imminent threat against any NATO ally but we see a Russia which has been willing to use military force against neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia."

Stoltenberg said: "This is about finding the right balance between providing a military response, providing credible deterrence but also avoiding escalating the situation and increasing tensions. And NATO is responding exactly in this way because we convey a message of strength, of unity but also a message that we strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia because Russia is our neighbor."

On Turkey, the NATO general secretary said he had raised the issue of human rights in his meetings with Turkish officials. "Turkey experienced a coup attempt in July and of course they have the right to prosecute those responsible." He added that he kept stressing "the importance of being able to prosecute those responsible for the failed coup, that they are prosecuted based on the rule of law. And I also welcome that the Council of Europe, which is responsible for the European human rights convention, is in close dialogue with Turkey on exactly these issues."

"Turkey is important for NATO for many different reasons. Partly the geographic location, partly because it is the ally that has suffered most from the violence and instability in Iraq and Syria, many terrorist attacks, and they have received three million refugees. Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance and the alliance is based on core values," Stoltenberg said, adding that democracy was one of them.

On NATO member states' military budgets, Stoltenberg said: "The encouraging news is that we have seen that more than 20 allies have now started to increase defense spending in real terms. It has done so for two years. We have seen very strong commitments and plans in different NATO allies to continue to increase but I'm not saying that everything is fine. I am actually traveling around to NATO capitals and telling every day to do more, to increase defense spending and to invest more into our collective defense."

From Friday, November 4, watch the full interview on dw.com/conflictzone. Renowned journalists Tim Sebastian and Michel Friedman take turns in presenting DW's top political talk show "Conflict Zone" with German and international decision-makers. 

Christoph Jumpelt

Christoph Jumpelt

Head of Corporate Communications and Spokesperson

T. +49.228.429-2041
christoph.jumpelt@dw.com