- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

NATO’s defense and security capabilities have not declined in the wake of the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has hit every member of the alliance, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

In a video press conference, Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters that adjustments have been made to some military exercises, but he insisted the move does not undermine operational readiness despite heightened Russian military activity near NATO’s borders and “significant” Russian presence in the North Sea.

NATO has to continue to patrol our skies, we have to be present on land but also in the air and at sea … so our operational readiness is maintained, it’s not undermined,” he said.

Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks come just one day before the first-ever video conference of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s foreign ministers in its 70-year history.

He said a key priority during the meeting will be to discuss ways to coordinate the alliance’s response “even further” to speed up efforts against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“When we respond together, our response is more effective,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

NATO’s core task is to provide security and defense for almost one billion people, so our primary objective is to ensure that this health crisis does not become a security crisis.”

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