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Stoltenberg Charts NATO's COVID-19 Progress, Announces Survey Results

March 23, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, NATO is doing what it does best — working together to confront threats, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

The secretary general spoke March 19 at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels as he unveiled the alliance's 2019 annual report. "This is a global pandemic, which affects us all," he said. "I express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones; my solidarity with all those who suffer from the virus; and my gratitude to the health workers and all those on the front line, who are fighting this crisis day and night often in very difficult conditions."

Stoltenberg also commended military personnel in allied nations who are supporting efforts to combat the virus.

A man speaks into a camera.
Stoltenberg Speaks
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presents his Annual Report for 2019 during a virtual press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Photo By: NATO
VIRIN: 200319-O-ZZ999-0004M

He said this is a time when resilience is tested to the limit, and when many NATO allies are having to make unprecedented decisions with tough social and economic consequences.

The alliance is working to limit the spread of the virus to reduce the risks to soldiers and civilians. But NATO still must ensure that its essential work continues to maintain deterrence and defense for allied nations, the secretary general said.

Stoltenberg  noted that some alliance personnel have tested positive and that some exercises have been modified or cancelled. Still,  he said NATO's ability to conduct operations has not been undermined. "Our forces remain ready, and our work goes on," he said.

Stoltenberg shifted to discuss his annual report on the alliance

A photograph of the cover of a report.
NATO Report
The NATO’s annual report for 2019.
Photo By: NATO
VIRIN: 200319-O-ZZ999-0001M

He called last year a time of great strides in adapting the alliance.He also spoke of a survey the alliance conducted last year as NATO marked its 70th anniversary. For the survey, 29,000 people across the alliance were interviewed. Stoltenberg said 81% of respondents believe the collaboration between North America and Europe on safety and security is important. "Allied citizens strongly agree with the core principle of collective defense," he said.

A total of 76% believe their NATO allies would defend them if they are attacked, he said, and 71% agree that their own country should act in defense of another ally.

Finally, a clear majority — 64% — would vote to remain in NATO, and only 9% would vote against remaining, the secretary general said. "So while results naturally vary across different countries, overall support for the NATO alliance is strong," he added.

"In 2019, we further boosted our investment in defense — spending across the alliance has increased in real terms by 4.6%," Stoltenberg  said. "We continued to strengthen our deterrence and defense, delivering on our readiness initiative and increasing our ability to move our forces across the Atlantic and in Europe," he said.

Alliance nations were united in calling out Russia's violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. "We remained committed in the fight against terrorism with our training missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq," he said. "We enhanced our resilience by updating the baseline requirements for telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G, and we declared space as our fifth operational domain alongside land, air, sea and cyber."