Posts Tagged ‘Jens Stoltenberg’

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget — Amid Erdogan Spat With NATO — Turkey’s commitment to democracy and human rights questioned

November 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised by the EU for mass arrests in the country following the failed 2016 coup

BRUSSELS (AFP) – An EU 2018 budget deal was announced Saturday that cuts funds destined to Turkey, citing doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights.German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led calls for a cut to the funds, which are linked to Turkey’s stalled bid to join the bloc, following mass-scale arrests in the country since the failed July 2016 coup.

MEPs and member states have agreed to reduce the “pre-ascension funds” by 105 million euros ($124 million) and froze an additional 70 million euros of previously announced spending.

In a statement, lawmakers said “they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying”.

Turkey has dismissed more than 140,000 officials since the coup attempt, and arrested another 50,000, including opposition politicians, academics, journalists, activists and EU citizens.

The German government has warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey as they risk “arbitrary” arrest.

“We have sent a clear message that the money that the EU provides cannot come without strings attached,” said Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the budget.

Europe had pledged 4.45 billion euros in pre-accession spending for Turkey from 2014 to 2020, but only 360 million euros has been allocated so far.

Ankara’s application to join the EU is effectively frozen, as several European leaders have criticised the hardline response to the thwarted bid to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year.

Overall, the 2018 budget calls for 160 billion euros of committed spending for ongoing programmes and 145 billion in payments expected for the year, increases of 1.3 percent and 7.8 percent from 2017.

The agreement still needs to be formally adopted by the EU Council, representing member states, and the European Parliament.

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Nato apologises to Turkey after Erdogan and Ataturk appear on ‘enemy chart’

Turkey withdraws 40 soldiers from Nato drill at joint warfare centre in Norway, in protest at incident

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in front of posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nato has apologised for depicting them as ‘enemies’
 Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in front of posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nato has apologised for depicting them as ‘enemies’ Photograph: AP

Nato’s secretary general has apologised to Turkey over military exercises in Norway during which Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were reportedly depicted as “enemies”.

Erdoğan said Turkey withdrew 40 soldiers participating in the drills at Nato’s joint warfare centre in Stavanger, Norway, in protest at the incident and criticised the alliance. “There can be no such unity, no such alliance,” he said in an address to his ruling party’s provincial leaders.

Details of the incident were sketchy. Erdoğan said Ataturk’s picture and his own name were featured on an “enemy chart” during the drills.

The individual who posted the material was described as a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a Nato employee.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying: “I apologise for the offence caused.” He said the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” and did not reflect the views of the alliance.

He added that the individual was removed from the exercise and an investigation was underway. “It will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action,” Stoltenberg added. “Turkey is a valued Nato ally, which makes important contributions to allied security.”

Stoltenberg apologised again at the Halifax international security forum in Canada. He said he had already spoken to Turkey’s defence chief and that it “won’t create any lasting problems, and I think it’s already behind us”.

Norway’s defence minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, also expressed his concerns about the incident. “The message does not reflect Norway’s views or policies and I apologise for the content of the message,” Bakke-Jensen said.

The joint warfare centre is a multinational Nato unit based in Stavanger, 300km south-west of Oslo. According to its website, it has a staff of 250 made up of civilians from 11 Nato member states, including Turkey.

In March, the Norwegian government caused fury in Turkey by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. The five officers said that they feared being arrested and tortured.

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Pentagon Moves to Develop Banned Intermediate Missile

November 17, 2017

Washington is raising pressure on Russia, saying it is violating an arms control treaty

The U.S. is laying the groundwork to build a type of missile banned by a Cold War-era pact unless Russia abandons its own pursuit of the weapons, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. military’s preliminary research and development, previously undisclosed, is aimed at potentially reviving an arsenal of prohibited ground-based, intermediate-range missiles if Moscow continues violating the pact, the officials said.

American officials say they don’t want to end the Cold War-era accord, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF, but rather bring Russia back into compliance. Washington hopes to show Moscow the kinds of new American weapons Russia’s armed forces would face if they don’t stop violating the INF, U.S. officials say.

The U.S. told Russia of its research project in recent weeks, according to U.S. officials, but said was ready to abandon it if Russia returns to compliance, the officials said.

“The idea here is we need to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price for violation of this treaty,” one U.S. official said. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF world…if that is the world the Russians want.”

A Russian official said Thursday that the U.S., not Moscow, has been violating the treaty through its missile-defense installations in Europe. The U.S. denies that claim. The official added that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a U.S. treaty withdrawal would bring an “immediate and reciprocal” Russian response.

In meetings in Brussels last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told allies that Washington was trying to use new leverage to push Moscow into compliance. He said Washington had no plans to abandon the INF.

“Our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance,” Mr. Mattis said last week. “It is not to walk away from the treaty.”

Arms Control

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force, or INF, Treaty was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington on Dec. 8, 1987. Key facts about the treaty:

  • Banned the use of intermediate and shorter range missiles with a range of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers (about 300 to 3,400 miles).
  • By 1991, it eliminated more than 2,700 U.S. and Soviet missiles, including hundreds of American Pershing IIs and Soviet SS-20s.
  • The U.S. gave up 846 missile systems and the Soviets scrapped 1,846 systems.
  • The U.S. missiles were in countries including Germany, the U.K., Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • The Soviet missiles were in Belarus, Bulgaria, then-Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and Russia, among others.
  • Source: U.S. State Department, Federal of American Scientists, INF Treaty documents.

The U.S. would only be in violation of the treaty if it tests, produces or fields the new ground-based cruise missile under development. Researching and designing the weapon doesn’t constitute a violation.

Mr. Mattis is trying to balance Washington’s more muscular response with European fears that the U.S. would abandon an arms-control pact that leaders on the continent saw as a critical milestone in reducing Cold War tensions.

The INF push is part of a larger effort to craft a new Russia strategy by the State and Defense Departments, U.S. officials said. The administration is making a push for a Ukraine peacekeeping deal and is trying to strengthen arms control accords that have frayed amid U.S.-Russian tensions, say U.S. officials.

This summer, Congress instructed the Pentagon to begin research and development on an intermediate-range, road-mobile, ground-launched missile system in response to Russia’s violations of the treaty. The Pentagon started preliminary research for the missile given the likelihood that it soon would be required by law, U.S. officials said.

The House and Senate passed legislation authorizing research and development of a conventional “ground mobile” cruise missile, adding an extra potential challenge to Russian defenses if deployed. The White House is likely to approve it in the coming weeks, U.S. officials said.

The legislation also requires the administration to develop a new plan for additional sanctions on Russia related to its violations of the INF and authorizes the administration to “invoke legal countermeasures,” including possible suspension of the treaty.

For months, the U.S. has sought ways to secure Russian compliance with the INF. The U.S. summoned Moscow in late 2016 to a mandatory meeting under a special treaty commission to answer for the alleged Russian violations, to no avail.

In March, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Russians had violated the treaty by deploying a land-based cruise missile. The missile’s range puts it at odds with the treaty, U.S. officials have said.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, right, and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty in the White House in 1987.Photo: REUTERS

The INF Treaty, signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1987, entered into force the following year and banned the use and production of nuclear and conventionally-armed missiles that fly between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (311 miles and 3,418 miles). It doesn’t ban those fired by ships or aircraft.

Russian officials have denied they are in violation of the treaty and instead have accused the Pentagon of violating the pact by installing Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in Romania and Poland. U.S. officials have denied that accusation, saying that the Aegis systems launch only missiles outside the parameters of the treaty.

The legislation calls on the administration to determine whether Russia’s RS-26 is banned by the INF or will be regulated as an intercontinental ballistic missile. Moscow also has stoked concern with its SSC-8 cruise missile.

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Russia’s RS-26

The INF Treaty remains critical for Europe’s security. The pact removed American-made Pershing II missiles from Europe, along with Soviet RDS-10 Pioneer, known to NATO as the SS-20.

The usually stoic NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, grew passionate this month while defending the INF Treaty’s importance.

“I’m part of a political generation in Europe which really grew up with the very intense debate related to the deployment of the SS-20s and the Pershing,” he said. “We also very much welcomed the INF Treaty which then eliminated all these weapons in Europe. So, I think that the INF Treaty is a cornerstone.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com, Paul Sonne at paul.sonne@wsj.com and Brett Forrest at brett.forrest@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-moves-to-develop-banned-intermediate-missile-1510862789

Mattis, in Afghanistan, Criticizes Iranian and Russian Aid to Taliban

September 28, 2017

Militants mark U.S. defense secretary’s visit with airport rocket attack, highlighting challenges facing the U.S. and its allies

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, on Wednesday during his first visit to Afghanistan since President Donald Trump spelled out a new South Asia strategy.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, on Wednesday during his first visit to Afghanistan since President Donald Trump spelled out a new South Asia strategy. PHOTO: RAHMAT GUL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

KABUL—U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday criticized Iran and Russia for continuing to arm and support Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, aid that American officials say provides the militant group with both firepower and added legitimacy.

Mr. Mattis, on his first visit to Afghanistan since President Donald Trump spelled out a new South Asia strategy last month, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, along with the top U.S. commander there, Gen. John Nicholson.

In a sign of the challenges facing the U.S. and its allies, militants struck Kabul’s international airport in an attack apparently timed to coincide with Mr. Mattis’s arrival. Afghan officials said eight rockets were fired at the airport, while the U.S. military said the attack involved suicide vests and several rounds of high-explosive ammunition, including mortars.

The local affiliate of Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault. So did the Taliban, which said it was targeting the defense secretary, who already had left the airport when the attack broke out.

Afghan security forces, with U.S. air support, swarmed the area where the attack was thought to have been launched, and killed four militants, a senior Afghan official said. The airport, which serves both civilian and military air traffic, was closed for several hours afterward.

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, salutes Mr. Mattis as he arrives at NATO headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday. Gen. Nicholson said the new U.S. strategy has buoyed the Afghan government and its foreign allies.
Gen. John Nicholson, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, salutes Mr. Mattis as he arrives at NATO headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday. Gen. Nicholson said the new U.S. strategy has buoyed the Afghan government and its foreign allies. PHOTO: HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

In a statement late Wednesday, the U.S. military said a missile on one of its aircraft had malfunctioned during the counterattack, causing several civilian casualties. It gave no further details, saying only that the attack and the malfunctioning ammunition were under investigation.

In his comments earlier in the day, Mr. Mattis said Russia and Iran’s continued assistance to the Taliban runs counter to their interests.

“Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them,” he said.

Military officials said weaponry and support from the Russians and Iranians serve to strengthen the Taliban, but also bestow a sense of legitimacy. “That’s a lot more dangerous right now than what they’re providing in terms of materiel,” a military official said.

Russia has acknowledged that it shares information with the Taliban in an effort to combat Islamic State, but has denied sending weapons. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, answering a question about the U.S. accusation last month, called it “a campaign based on falsehoods.”

Taliban leaders have described their relationship with Moscow as “just political.” Iranian officials say they have contacts with the insurgent group, but deny providing it with weapons or sanctuary.

Mr. Mattis also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pictured second from right on a helicopter en route to a Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The U.S. has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force.
Mr. Mattis also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pictured second from right on a helicopter en route to a Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday. The U.S. has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force. PHOTO: THOMAS WATKINS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Trump administration’s new approach will add approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to the 12,000 already in Afghanistan. Another 4,000 troops are there as part of a NATO force. The new policy also will pressure Pakistan to seal off havens the administration has said are used by the Taliban and other militant groups to continue fighting the U.S.

The additional troops will reach Afghanistan by the end of the year, officials said. Most will participate in a mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces, with fewer than 150 assigned to counterterrorism operations, officials said.

The new U.S. strategy, coming about eight months after Mr. Trump took office, has buoyed the Afghan government and its foreign allies, said Gen. Nicholson. It is based on conditions rather than timelines, meaning the U.S. isn’t expected to draw down its forces until U.S. goals have been reached.

President Trump outlined his new stance to combat terrorism in Afghanistan on Monday night, saying that U.S. troops will continue to stay in the region and that the fight will only become more intense. The WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib gives us three takeaways from the speech. Photo: Getty

“The fundamental difference is in morale,” Gen. Nicholson told reporters.

The Obama administration based part of its Afghanistan policy on timelines, and critics—particularly Mr. Trump—charged that approach signaled to the Taliban that it could just wait out the Americans.

The change by Mr. Trump has had a negative impact on Taliban morale, Gen. Nicholson said, adding that the leadership of the Islamist group has “atomized.”

“For years, they thought we were leaving,” he said, but fresh U.S. and NATO commitments have dispelled that notion.

Islamic State remains a challenge in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. Since at least 2015, the group’s fighters have gained a toehold in eastern Afghanistan, near the country’s border with Pakistan.

The group is resilient, but Gen. Nicholson and other military officials said there were no indications that foreign fighters from Iraq or Syria have escaped that region to come into Afghanistan.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mattis-in-afghanistan-criticizes-iranian-and-russian-aid-to-taliban-1506539364?mod=e2fb

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If you are talking Iran you are talking China….

© AFP/File | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) during a welcoming ceremony on January 23, 2016 in the capital Tehran

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NATO’s Stoltenberg Says North Korea’s ‘Reckless Behavior’ Requires Global Response

September 10, 2017

LONDON — North Korea’s “reckless behavior” is a global threat and requires a global response, the head of the NATO military alliance said on Sunday.

NATO is not directly involved in the crisis, which saw Pyongyang carry out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test a week ago, but has repeatedly called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“The reckless behavior of North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response and that of course also includes NATO,” NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with BBC television.

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Jens Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg declined to say whether the U.S. territory of Guam, threatened by North Korea, was covered by NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all.

“We are now totally focused on how can we contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict,” he said.

British defense minister Michael Fallon also told the BBC military conflict should be avoided at all costs.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon wants to boost defence with Australia amid concern over North Korea and China.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Nato chief: world is at its most dangerous point in a generation

September 9, 2017

Jens Stoltenberg warns of converging threats as Russia mobilises estimated 100,000 troops on EU’s borders

By  in Tapa
The Guardian

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg visits Nato battle group soldiers at Tapa military base in Estonia. Photograph: Raigo Pajula/AFP/Getty Images

The world is more dangerous today than it has been in a generation, the head of Nato has said, days before the mobilisation of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the EU’s eastern borders, and as a nuclear crisis grows on the Korean peninsula.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the military alliance, said the sheer number of converging threats was making the world increasingly perilous.

Asked in a Guardian interview whether he had known a more dangerous time in his 30-year career, Stoltenberg said: “It is more unpredictable, and it’s more difficult because we have so many challenges at the same time.

“We have proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, we have terrorists, instability, and we have a more assertive Russia,” Stoltenberg said during a break from visiting British troops stationed in Estonia. “It is a more dangerous world.”

From next Thursday, over six days, Russian and Belarusian troops will take part in what is likely to be Moscow’s largest military exercise since the cold war. An estimated 100,000 soldiers, security personnel and civilian officials, will be active around the Baltic Sea, western Russia, Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, without the supervision required under international agreement.

On the other side of the world, in the face of local protests, the South Korean government has deployed the controversial US Thaad missile defence system as it looked to counter potential future attacks from North Korea, which recently launched a ballistic missile over Japan, threatened the US Pacific territory of Guam and tested a possible thermonuclear device.

Donald Trump has threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on the North Koreans should further threats be made against the US, and kept up the threat on Thursday, saying he is building up US military power.

“It’s been tens of billions of dollars more in investment. And each day new equipment is delivered – new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world, the best anywhere in the world, by far,” Trump said. “Hopefully we’re not going to have to use it on North Korea. If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”

Trump has ruled out talks with Pyongyang for the time being and Washington’s diplomatic focus is now on efforts to secure agreement at the United Nations for much tighter economic measures, including an oil embargo and possibly a naval blockade.

A South Korean marine participating in an exercise this week.
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 A South Korean marine participating in an exercise this week. Photograph: Handout/South Korean Defense Ministry vi

Speaking during his visit to the Estonian military base in Tapa, a former Soviet Union airstrip about 75 miles (120km) from the border with Russia, Stoltenberg was coy when asked if he backed the US president’s bellicose threats to Pyongyang, blamed by some for exacerbating the current situation in south-east Asia.

“If I started to speculate about potential military options I would only add to the uncertainty and difficulty of the situation so I think my task is not to be contribute to that. I will support efforts to find a political, negotiated solution,” he said.

Pushed on whether he could even envision a military solution to the crisis in Korea, Stoltenberg said: “I think the important thing now is to look into how we can create a situation where we can find a political solution to the crisis.

“At the same time I fully understand and support the military message that has been implemented in the region by South Korea and to some extent Japan, as they have the right to defend themselves. They have a right to respond when they see these very aggressive actions. I also support the presence of US troops and capabilities in Korea.”

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister whose 10 years in power were marked for his success in improving Norway’s environmental footprint, took over the role of Nato secretary general in 2014, forming a close working relationship with Barack Obama.

Soon after Trump’s election last year, however, in response to suggestions that the White House might back away from Nato, Stoltenberg made a pointed intervention highlighting the lives lost by the alliance’s members coming to the aid of the US after the 9/11 attacks. Trump had described Nato as obsolete during his election campaign.

In May, Stoltenberg took on the role of placater-in-chief after the US president used the occasion of the opening of Nato’s new building in Brussels, and the unveiling of a memorial to 9/11, to castigate 23 of the 29 Nato members for not spending enough on defence. A number of leaders were visibly startled by the nature and timing of the speech.

Asked this week whether Trump was the ideal person to unpick the current fraught security situation, Stoltenberg insisted the 29 Nato members were united within the alliance. “Donald Trump is the elected president of the United States,” he said. “And Nato is a collective alliance of 29 democracies. And that’s part of democracy, that different political leaders are elected.”

Donald Trump after pushing the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, aside as they walked through the Nato headquarters in Brussels in May.
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 Donald Trump at the Nato headquarters in Brussels in May. He had just shoved the Montenegrin prime minister aside. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

He said he did not believe there was an imminent threat to Nato members, and that an increase in defence spending had strengthened the alliance in recent years.

Stoltenberg has completed a tour of the four battle groups stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, forming the Nato advanced forces defending the eastern borders.

Stoltenberg said the troops’ “defensive” mobilisation was a message to Russia that an attack on one Nato ally was an attack on all, and that he remained confident of the security of eastern Europe. But he expressed concern at Moscow’s imminent failure to live up to its international obligations for exercises involving more than 13,000 troops to be open to observers, including overflights. Some Baltic states estimate that about 100,000 Russian troops will be involved in this year’s exercise and Poland claims the Kremlin has requisitioned more than 4,000 train carriages to move military personnel west.

“Russia has said it is below 13,000. They briefed that on the Nato-Russia council a few weeks ago,” Stoltenberg said. “That was useful but at the same time we have seen when Russia says that an exercise has less than 13,000 troops that’s not always the case. We have seen that in Zapad 2009 and 2013 – the two previous Zapad exercises. There were many more troops participating.”

Stoltenberg said Nato had always offered up its exercises to scrutiny, “while Russia has not opened any exercise to open observation since the end of the cold war”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/08/world-most-dangerous-generation-nato-chief-jens-stoltenberg

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NATO chief says Turkey must show ‘full respect’ for rule of law

April 27, 2017

AFP

© DOGAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP | Turkish police escort people after their arrest for alleged links with US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen on April 26, 2017 in the central city of Kayseri

VALLETTA (AFP) – 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Turkey on Thursday it must fully respect legal due process, as Ankara continues to make mass arrests after last July’s failed coup.

“Turkey has the right to protect itself and to prosecute those who were behind the failed coup attempt but that has to take place based on the full respect of the rule of law,” Stoltenberg said as he arrived for an EU defence ministers meeting in Valletta.

“I attach a great importance to these values myself and this is an issue we have discussed with the Turkish leadership,” he added.

Turkey on Wednesday detained more than 1,000 people and suspended over 9,000 police in a vast new crackdown against alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of mounting the coup.

Erdogan earlier this month narrowly won a controversial referendum which gives him increased powers, sparking increased concerns in Europe over the country’s rights record.

But at the same time, Turkey is a crucial NATO ally, sitting at a strategic crossroads and providing the US-led alliance with its second biggest military component after the United States.

“Turkey is a key ally for many reasons, especially for its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq, Syria and all the violence, the turmoil we see to the south but (it is) also close to Russia and the Black Sea,” Stoltenberg noted.

The NATO secretary general, a former Norwegian prime minister, said he looked forward to an alliance summit in May in Brussels where all 28 member state leaders will be able to “discuss our common challenges.”

© 2017 AFP

Tillerson Clashes With NATO Allies Over Military Spending — Our nations “are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us.”

March 31, 2017

German foreign minister said U.S. demands on military spending were ‘totally unrealistic’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepare for a group photo of 28 foreign ministers a conference of foreign ministers on Friday. The meeting in Brussels is Tillerson’s first visit to NATO headquarters as secretary of state. Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. couldn’t “maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson squared off against his German counterpart on Friday as the Trump administration stepped up its pressure on allies to raise their military spending.

Mr. Tillerson said he wants member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to agree at their summit in May to increase such spending by the end of the year or to make concrete plans to reach2% of gross domestic product by 2024—a target the Germans have contested.

As part of that process, Mr. Tillerson suggested that the U.S. would want to see annual milestones that would ensure the defense investment pledgeis implemented by the 2024 deadline.

“As President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures,” Mr. Tillerson said at a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel acknowledged Germany should spend more but said demands for spending 2% of GDP were “totally unrealistic.” To meet the U.S. target, he said, Germany would have to increase spending by some €35 billion ($37 billion).

Mr. Gabriel declined to answer questions about whether Germany intended to develop the kind of spending plans pushed by the U.S.

Raising German military spending—now at about 1.2% of GDP—has long been seen by the U.S. as key to Europe shouldering more of its own defense.

Mr. Gabriel, a member of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, has stepped up his criticism of further spending increases as September elections near, arguing that a strong defense isn’t enough to ensure security.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the ruling Christian Democrats, has been more supportive of increased military spending than the SPD, who is a junior partner in her governing coalition.

After President Donald Trump’s meeting with Ms. Merkel earlier this month, he made waves in Berlin by tweeting that “Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO,” a charge German officials have dismissed.

Mr. Trump promised in his first budget proposal to boost U.S. military spending by $20 billion to “rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has embraced the push by the U.S. and said Europe must raise its spending and improve its military capabilities.

“Increased military spending isn’t about pleasing the United States. It is about investing more in European security because it is important to Europe,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a visit to London where he met with his British counterpart, underlined the U.S. stance, and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon called on allies to “raise their game.”

An official at the NATO meeting said there was “a reasonable consensus” for the call, with a number of allies detailing their plans. But officials acknowledged reaching agreement on the exact language of the spending plans will be a challenge, given Germany’s concerns.

Some allied officials predicted the alliance would agree on spending plans, but only after intense negotiation over language that could give countries a degree of flexibility.

Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment, including by adding troops in Eastern Europe this year as part of a force meant to deter Russia.

In London, Mr. Mattis said Russian aggression and the country’s alleged interference in foreign elections and in Afghanistan are matters of common concern between the U.S. and the U.K. Mr. Mattis said the West was confronting a range of challenges, from Iran’s alleged sponsorship of international terrorism to missile tests by North Korea.

“Our two nations are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us,” Mr. Mattis said. “They do not understand: We don’t scare.”

On Russia, Mr. Mattis accused Moscow of violations of international law, citing its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in foreign elections. He also said the U.S. has observed “Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban” in Afghanistan, though he wasn’t specific.

Mr. Fallon said Britain, the U.S. and other allies “need to be extremely watchful now of this persistent pattern of Russian interference.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

Still Think Putin is America’s Friend? Russia warns of nuclear war unless US backs down over missiles in Europe — Ready to close Black Sea

March 28, 2017

Russia has warned of nuclear war if US missiles carry on being shipped into Europe.

 

Pentagon missiles in Europe and warships patrolling Russia’s borders could lead to nuclear war, warned Vladimir Putin’s military bosses.The anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) is provoking a “new arms race” and scuppers Russia’s ability to defend itself from a nuke strike, they said.Russian military bosses warned the ABM “lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons” and increases the risk of “sudden nuclear attack”.

“The presence of the global ABM system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM ‘umbrella,’” said Viktor Poznikhir, top brass for the Russian general staff.
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He added: “The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.”

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Scientists previously warned the US’s new nuclear weapons could force Putin’s hand into a nuclear conflict.

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Russian leader Vladimir PutinGETTYVLADIMIR PUTIN: US President Donald Trump hopes to improve relations with Russia

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Poznikhir said: “The presence of American ABM sites in Europe and ABM-capable ships in the seas and oceans close to Russia’s territory creates a powerful clandestine potential for delivering a surprise nuclear missile strike against Russia.”US attempts to trump Russia and China are heighting the risk of nuclear war, the Kremlin warned.The stark warning came at a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva.

Trump: ‘Vladimir Putin is a better leader than Barack Obama’

Poznikhir said the US missile shield “narrows down the opportunity for nuclear reduction dialogue”.He said the Pentagon is developing the missile system to face Iran and North Korea, but ignoring objections raised by Russia.Russia warns the US will have 1,000 missiles at its fingertips which could pose a threat to them by 2020.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600613/Russia-Nuclear-War-US-Missiles-World-3-Vladimir-Putin-Donald-Trump-ABM-Shield-China-ICBMs

NATO head says more defence spending from European allies ‘essential’ to US ties

March 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | “In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in a report, referring to members’ 2-percent defence spending commitment
BRUSSELS (AFP) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday told allies to boost defence spending, as demanded by US President Donald Trump, if they want to preserve crucial transatlantic defence ties.

“This is essential for the continued strength of the transatlantic bond on which our alliance is founded,” Stoltenberg said in NATO’s 2016 annual report.

“For almost 70 years the unique partnership between Europe and North America has ensured peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.

“That is an achievement we can never take for granted.”

Trump caused dismay in Europe when he said on the campaign trail that NATO was “obsolete,” and failing to meet the challenge posed by Islamic terror groups.

His administration has repeatedly pressed the allies to meet a pledge to spend two percent of GDP annually on defence by 2024.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO allies cut defence spending only to find themselves caught out by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

NATO leaders, pressed by then US president Barack Obama, agreed the two percent target in 2014 and reaffirmed it at a 2016 Warsaw summit to counter a more assertive Russia.

The NATO annual report said only five countries met the two percent target — the United States, Britain, Greece, Poland and Estonia — while Washington still accounted for nearly 70 percent of combined alliance defence spending.

Overall, the US-led alliance reversed the downturn in 2015 and last year, defence spending rose 3.8 percent or $10 billion (9.3 billion euros), it noted.

“In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in the report.

Meeting the two percent target has caused some soul-searching in Europe over what the wider impact will be.

Critics cite the example of Germany, currently on 1.2 percent of GDP but an increase to 2.0 percent would put Berlin’s defence budget on a par with Russia’s at around 65 billion euros.

Trump has also called for a $54 billion hike in US defence expenditure, currently at more than $600 billion, winning broad support but also criticism that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Europe must not cave in to US spending demands on NATO, says EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker

February 17, 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends a debate on the priorities of the incoming Malta Presidency of the EU for the next six months at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to US demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.

US president Donald Trump has raised questions about his commitment to the NATO defence alliance if European countries do not raise defence spending to 2 per cent of economic output.

The United States puts up 70 per cent of alliance funds.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on Wednesday that they must honour military spending pledges to make sure the United States does not moderate its support.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg brief the media during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
US defence secretary Jim Mattis and NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg brief the media during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15 CREDIT: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR

“It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Mr Juncker said in a speech on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference.

He said he knew that Germany would no longer have a budget surplus if it increased defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP from 1.22 percent.

“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” he said, arguing it would be sensible to look at a “modern stability policy” made up of several components.

Watch | General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis sworn in as Trump’s Defence Secretary

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/17/europe-must-not-cave-us-spending-demands-nato-says-eus-jean/

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“If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending,” he said.

“Europeans must bundle their defence spending better and spend the money more efficiently,” he added.