Jens Stoltenberg told DW that he is concerned about Russia's new military capabilities. In an exclusive interview scheduled to air next week, the NATO chief said that Moscow is investing heavily in modern equipment — both conventional and nuclear.
He said that Russia has been willing to use military force against neighbors, citing the current conflict in Ukraine, and historic warfare in Georgia. "Moscow also has troops in Moldova without the consent of the government in Moldova," Stoltenberg said, pointing to "a pattern developed over years which needs a response."
"We're not mirroring what Russia is doing," Stoltenberg told DW. "We're not responding tank for tank, or missile for missile, or nuclear weapon for nuclear weapon. But of course we need to make sure that NATO adapts when we see a more assertive Russia investing heavily in new modern equipment."
Stoltenberg was keen to point out that he wants to improve NATO's relationship with Russia, to reduce tensions. "We don't want a new Cold War," he said. "We don't want a new arms race and we don't want to isolate Russia."
As a neighbor Russia is there to stay, Stoltenberg said. "So for NATO, this is about the balance, combining what we call defense and dialogue. We don't want to choose between defense or dialogue, but we believe that as long as we are strong, as long as we have credible deterrence, as we have, then we can also engage in political dialogue with Russia."
NATO and Moscow have accused each other of "risky deployments" in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. In April, Russia tested missiles with live munitions in the Baltic Sea, alarming Latvia and neutral Sweden.
Stoltenberg said that NATO's response to Russia's assertiveness is to implement "the biggest reinforcement of the alliance's collective defense." Indeed, last year, NATO deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states, while the US military sent a Patriot battery to Lithuania for drills. The leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II — are seeking extra US aid to ward off any Russian moves against them.
Earlier this month, Poland said it is willing to contribute $2 billion (€863,000) for a permanent US military base, according to an official document.
Stoltenberg told DW that deploying troops to the eastern part of the alliance, to the Baltic countries, to Poland, sends a clear message to any potential adversaries that NATO is there to protect all allies against any threat.
DW's full interview with Jens Stoltenberg will air next week.