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NATO Nations Face Threats Together, Including Pandemic

May 15, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

While these are challenging times, NATO nations do not face these problems alone, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee said today.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach held a virtual briefing for the news media on the results of the NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting. The meeting – also virtual – brought together the 30 military leaders of the alliance. They discussed the response to coronavirus and other threats to the NATO nations.

The recommendations that stem from the meeting will be used to inform next month's defense ministerial, he said. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, participated in the NATO meeting from his Pentagon office.

''NATO allies and partners are standing together and acting together in solidarity,'' Peach said. ''Together, we endure, persevere and overcome.''

A man in a military uniform stands at a lectern.
Virtual News Conference
Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach speaks during a virtual news conference at the conclusion of the NATO Military Committee meeting, Brussels, May 14, 2020.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200515-O-ZZ999-002

NATO must be on guard to ensure that nations or groups do not try to exploit the pandemic for their own gains, he said. 

''We have seen an increase in disinformation aimed at sowing division in the alliance and in Europe as well as undermining our democracies,'' the air chief marshal said. ''We have seen a continued pace of Russian military activity. Over the last couple of weeks, the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission has been deployed numerous times to intercept Russian aircraft.''

The attacks in Kabul brought Afghanistan into focus, and the chiefs discussed the security situation in that troubled country. Peach said there has been some progress in inter-Afghan negotiations.

''In Iraq, the situation remains unstable,'' he said. ''The fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] is not over. Coalition forces are working hard to safeguard the progress and gains achieved.''

NATO allies and partners are standing together and acting together in solidarity.''
Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman, NATO Military Committee

NATO forces remain in Iraq to ensure peace and stability. ''Our forces remain ready, and our work continues,'' Peach said.

All the chiefs reiterated their commitment to the alliance. ''They assured that COVID-19 would not affect their contributions to collective defense, including our multinational battlegroups in the east of the alliance, NATO air policing, our maritime deployments and our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo,'' Peach said.

NATO personnel will adapt special measures to protect themselves from infection, but the missions are too important to let slide, he said. ''Our ability to deter and, if necessary, defend persists,'' he said.

The peacekeeping mission in Kosovo continues with 19 NATO allies and eight partner nations contributing roughly 3,500 troops. ''KFOR provides a safe and secure environment for all people and communities and is an important contributor to the stability of the Western Balkans,'' Peach said.

The Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan continues, and NATO personnel continue to train, assist and advise Afghan partners. ''We will continue to adapt our presence in Afghanistan through a conditions-based process, in close coordination with all allies and, importantly, our partners,'' Peach said.

A man in a military uniform stands at a lectern.
Virtual News Conference
Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach speaks during a virtual news conference at the conclusion of the NATO Military Committee meeting, Brussels, May 14, 2020.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 200515-O-ZZ999-001

Following clear political direction from NATO ministers in April, the chiefs of defense discussed new ways to contribute more to the security in the Middle East and North Africa Region to complement existing efforts, the chairman said.

The chiefs also worked to make operational NATO's military strategy, which was approved last year. ''This work is being refined and made operational through our work on the Concept for Deterrence and Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Area, supplemented and complemented by the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, which looks forward 20 years and sets a vision to support allies' efforts to develop military forces,'' Peach said.

The results will also go before the Defense Ministerial next month. ''These concepts will improve the future alignment of existing mechanisms, processes and activities as well as the procurements requirements resulting from our continuous process of adaptation,'' he said. ''It brings coherence to all our military activities.''

The chiefs, along with Italian army Gen. Claudio Graziano, chairman of the European Union Military Committee, also discussed NATO's response to COVID-19.

NATO has launched more than 150 missions to support and transport medical personnel, supplies and treatment capabilities. The alliance has facilitated the construction of more than 50 field hospitals and alternate care facilities. There have been numerous international aero-medical evacuations with critical care teams; and more than 3,500 allied citizens from around the world have been repatriated, Peach said.

''We concluded the meeting after an in-depth discussion about the effects of this pandemic and a discussion on resilience and the importance to capture lessons that can be implemented to better prepare for any future health crisis,'' he said.