Stoltenberg: EU-NATO cooperation best way to preserve US ties

Jens Stoltenberg [Arbeiderpartiet / Flickr]

Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation is the best way to respond to doubts over the future of transatlantic security ties, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday (6 December).

Concerns that Washington’s near 70-year European defence guarantee might no longer hold have been stoked by President-elect Donald Trump saying on the campaign trail he would think twice about helping NATO allies who did not pay their defence dues.

“Questions have been asked related to the strength of the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said as NATO foreign ministers gathered for two-day talks at alliance headquarters in Brussels.

“I think the best way to respond to those questions is to deliver stronger NATO-EU cooperation,” he said, without referring directly to Trump.

After a call last month, Stoltenberg had said he was “absolutely confident” the US president-elect was committed to NATO and European security.

Washington, which accounts for nearly 70% of annual defence expenditure by NATO member states, has long pressed the allies to do much more.

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Stung into action by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, NATO leaders agreed in 2014 to reverse years of defence cuts and devote the equivalent of two percent of economic output to defence.

The European Union — which groups 22 of the 28 NATO member states — has also moved to take on a greater defence role, stressing cooperation with the alliance.

Stoltenberg and EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini are due later Tuesday to announce a series of joint efforts, among them combatting cyber-attacks and responding to new, hybrid threats which Russia used so effectively in the Ukraine crisis.

A NATO official said much of the NATO and EU effort would go into coordinating the response to hybrid warfare, coupled with increased information sharing and the bloc’s involvement in exercises.

Stoltenberg stressed that such cooperation will be pragmatic and complementary to NATO, not duplicating its activities.

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