Stoltenberg voices concerns about Arctic region, points to increasing interest from China and Russia

Jens StoltenbergPhoto: Annika Byrde / NTB

The Cold Response 2022 military exercise is important for building credible deterrence against Russia but also against a China that shows increased interest in the Arctic, Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday.

“The high north is an area of ​​critical importance to all allies. That is why NATO has increased its presence in the north. This exercise is an example of that,” Secretary-General Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Friday.

Stoltenberg was in Bardufoss in connection with the NATO exercise Cold Response. He believes exercises like this have become even more important after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russia has increased its military activity in the Arctic, and in addition, China has begun to show increasing interest in the region.

“China has defined itself as a ‘near-Arctic state’ and aims to build a presence in the area,” Stoltenberg said. He believes a strong and predictable allied presence is the best way to ensure stability and protect the Alliance’s interests.

The backbone of NATO

Around 30,000 soldiers from 27 different countries are participating in the exercise, in which Finland and Sweden are also strategic partners. In addition, 220 fighter jets and 50 ships are also participating.

During the visit, Stoltenberg greeted the soldiers present before giving a speech. 

He emphasized that the soldiers on the ground are carrying out what he and top leaders are discussing in Brussels.

“You are the backbone of our Alliance. You are the men and women who ensure that we are all safe in a more challenging and dangerous world. Thank you very much for your service,” Stoltenberg said.

A new situation

Stoltenberg emphasized several times during the press conference that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the entire security situation for NATO.

“Putin’s war against Ukraine has fundamentally changed the security situation in Europe, and it has created a new standard for our security. Even if the war ends tomorrow, it would have permanent consequences,” Stoltenberg said.

He pointed out that Russia has been willing to challenge core principles in security.

“They also challenge NATO’s right to protect and defend our allies. Before the invasion, they demanded that NATO remove all infrastructure and all forces from the eastern part of the Alliance,” Stoltenberg added.

That would mean that almost half of all NATO members would not be protected and defended like other members. 

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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