NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is awaiting confirmation on the US decision to withdraw troops from Germany. Speaking to Euronews, he said that ‘no final decision’ has been taken on how or when the decision would be implemented.
He added that he expects the issue to be discussed at a defence ministers meeting later this week.
The move by Donald Trump to withdraw 9,500 American soldiers in Germany had caught the military alliance off guard. The first reports in the press date to June 5, and Stoltenberg confirmed to Euronews that he had spoken to Trump only last week about the plans.
The NATO chief shrugged off the news, saying he ‘welcomed an increased US presence in Europe’ with more troops in Poland, with more presence in Baltic countries over recent years.
“My message is also that that U.S. presence in Europe is not about protecting Europe, but it is not about projecting U.S. power beyond Europe. We know that many of the U.S. operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Africa, they come out from bases, U.S. bases in Europe. The U.S. Africa Command is not in Africa. It’s in Stuttgart, in Germany.”
While NATO’s traditional sparring partner has been Russia, the Secretary-General said recently that a new threat is coming from Beijing.
Stoltenberg said that the rise of China is ‘fundamentally changing the global balance of power’. He added that the country will soon have the biggest economy in the world, as well as the second-largest defence budget.
He warned that China is investing heavily in new long-range military capabilities, missiles that can reach all NATO allies in Europe. He emphasised that Europe and US must stand together and ‘maintain the transatlantic bond’ to face the rise of China’s power.
Over the years there have been repeated calls for a European army. Increasingly, those championing the idea that Europe needs to act on its own, that it can no longer rely on America, but how any new layer of defence works with NATO forces is still unclear.
“We welcome the fact that European allies are now stepping up and investing more,” says Stoltenberg. However, due to coronavirus, he admits, that prioritising defence spending is not a simple choice.
_Watch the full interview with Jens Stoltenberg on Euronews World Tuesday night at 20:50. _