There we were, reading the transcript of NATO GenSec Stoltenburg’s pre-meeting presser
Then, after he had said what he wanted to say, Stoltenberg took questions via Skype and WhatsApp. Eventually, Teri Schultz from Deutsche Welle asked:
“do Allies have some responsibility in allowing Russia and China to have used that space early, to make these claims about NATO responsibility and effectiveness and the other disinformation that’s being put out right now?”
Apparently disappointed that Jens had not slammed Russia and China yet. No joy. In his reply, at some length, he did not so much as mention Russa! And Jens’ answer left the German press unsatisfied.
So Teri Schultz tried again:
TERI SCHULTZ: You didn’t answer the part, sorry, sir, about Russia . . . Russia, it being easy for Russia and China to exploit that space. And are you suspicious, for example, about these Russian medics who were sent there during the time that Europeans were not sending that kind of assistance?
I paste in Stoltenberg’s rational answer:
JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, it is for nations to decide what kind of help they need and what we see is that this is an international crisis and we need to help each other. NATO Allies help, other countries help and at the end of the day, it has to be based on national requests and national needs. That’s in a way what I can say about the different kinds of help which different Allies are receiving.
What a disappointment!
Finally, it comes to FAZ
THOMAS GUTSCHKER [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]: Yes. Good morning, Secretary General. Thank you very much for providing this opportunity again. I have two questions. The first one is on: how does COVID-19 affect operations, especially in Afghanistan and Lithuania? And what is NATO doing to prevent the spread of the virus with troops on the ground? And the second question: how much are you concerned that Russia is taking advantage of this current health crisis, and which indications do you have for that besides disinformation? So maybe you can refer to the military exercise that has been taking place. Thanks a lot.
Here is Stoltenberg’s answer, all 390 words of it. Note the minor role of Russia in it, not even mentioned until several paragraphs down:
JENS STOLTENBERG: We are, of course, making sure that we are taking the necessary preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus. We do that at these NATO headquarters, that’s reason why we now conduct virtual meetings in the way we do now and also virtual press conferences. And we have reduced significantly the number of meetings, the number of people coming to these headquarters.
That’s also the case when we look at our different military missions and operations. The different military commanders have implemented a wide range of precautionary measures to help reduce the spread of the virus. That’s also the case in Afghanistan, where Germany’s present with its troops in the Resolute Support Mission. It’s also the case in our battlegroups in the Baltic countries, again in Lithuania, where Germany is present. So, the military commanders have made sure that they have implemented measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
At the same time, it is extremely important that while we have the COVID-19 crisis, that NATO can continue to operate. Because the threats and the challenges we are faced with don’t disappear because of the COVID-19 crisis. So we still have terrorist threats. We still have al-Qaida and ISIS out there. They don’t disappear because of the COVID-19 crisis. We still have a unique opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. We need to be present and make sure that we do everything we can to create peace in Afghanistan.
And we, of course, see significant military activities close to NATO borders with a new exercise in the western military districts of Russia, close to NATO borders. We have seen significant Russian presence in the North Sea. So therefore, NATO has to continue to patrol our skies with air policing. We need to be present on land, but also in the air and at sea. And we have our Standing Naval Forces, which continues to patrol the seas. So our operational readiness is maintained, is not undermined.
We have made some adjustments to exercises. We have cancelled some exercises. We have adjusted some other exercises. But that doesn’t change, that doesn’t undermine our operational readiness. And we continue to patrol the skies. And defend our borders, and we continue our missions and operations, not least in the fight against terrorism, because these threats continues to exist.
Okay, now look at the headline story that Mr. Gutschker made of it:
Nutzt das russische Militär die Corona-Krise aus?
- –AKTUALISIERT AM I translate the headline:
NATO CONCERNED: Is the Russian Military taking advantage of the Corona Crisis?
If you’ve read this far, you recall that the “concerned” was Mr Gutschker’s own word. There is NOTHING in Stoltenberg’s answer about any concern over Russia taking advantage of the corona crisis. Nothing. Read it again, just to be sure.
I am not going to translate Mr. Gutschker’s baloney story, but simply note that the Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeitung continues to be just another Washington parrot. I close with a quote from the American poet
- ee cumings:
some shit there is i will not eat