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NATO Chief Warns of Russian Aggression in Speech to Congress

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019. (Carlos Barria/REUTERS)

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned Wednesday in a speech to Congress that the alliance must address increasing Russian aggression.

“There is no contradiction between the defense and dialogue,” Stoltenberg told a joint session of Congress convened for NATO’s 70th anniversary. “We do not want to isolate Russia. We strive for a better relationship with Russia.” Citing recent NATO efforts to enhance defenses in the face of Russian offenses, he added, “We do all of this not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent conflict and to preserve peace; not to fight, but to deter; not to attack, but to defend.”

Stoltenberg read off a laundry list of Russian transgressions, including the country’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, its support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, its “sophisticated disinformation campaigns” and interference in elections, the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain, and violations of a key Cold War-era arms deal.

“We do not want a new arms race. We do not want a new cold war. But we must not be naive. An agreement that is only respected by one side will not keep us safe,” Stoltenberg said of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the U.S. withdrew from in February amid claims of Russian violations.

In a thinly veiled reference to President Trump’s suggestion that the alliance is outdated, the NATO chief also said that, “Our alliance has not lasted for 70 years out of a sense of nostalgia or sentiment,” but “because it is in the national interest of each and every one of our nations.”

He did, however, echo Trump’s repeated insistence that NATO member countries must spend more on defense, insisting that, “Our desire for a peaceful world is simply not enough. We must act and invest to make it so. NATO allies must spend more on defense.”

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