WELLINGTON, New Zealand — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday he’s absolutely convinced the U.S. will remain in the military alliance and it has made no preparations for an unlikely U.S. withdrawal because doing so would send a signal that it could happen.
Stoltenberg made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press and Newsroom while visiting New Zealand. He said there is strong bipartisan support for NATO in the U.S. and that words are being matched by deeds as the U.S. increases its military presence in Europe.
“A strong NATO is good for Europe, but it’s also good for the United States,” Stoltenberg said. “It’s a great advantage for the United States to have 28 friends and allies.”
In a bipartisan fashion, the Senate Armed Services Committee is showing its support for the NATO alliance.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that President Donald Trump had privately said several times in 2018 that he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Stoltenberg said, however, that Trump’s message about allied nations needing to spend more on defense was having an impact.
“Because what we see now is that European allies and Canada are stepping up,” he said. “After years of cutting defense spending, all allies are starting to increase defense spending. More allies are meeting the 2 percent guideline,” he said, referring to the proportion of GDP spent on defense.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised NATO countries for increasing their financial contributions to the Western alliance, but he’s still hounding them to pay even more, saying the United States still shoulders a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting Europe.
Stoltenberg said Russia was to blame for the demise on Friday of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The U.S. withdrew after both sides accused the other of violating the Cold War-era agreement.
“We have called on Russia again and again to come back into compliance because these missiles are mobile, they are hard to detect, nuclear capable, and they can reach European cities within minutes,” Stoltenberg said. “And therefore they also reduce the threshold of any potential use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.”
While in New Zealand this week, Stoltenberg visited the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch which was one of two mosques where a gunman killed 51 people in March. The attack had similarities to a 2011 attack in Norway when a right-wing extremist killed 77 people. Stoltenberg was Norway’s prime minister at the time.
“Not so many years ago we all thought that terrorism was something that was organized outside our own countries,” he said. “What we’ve learned now is that terrorism also comes from the inside. It’s home-grown.”