Columns

NATO Chief, Obama Discuss Dealing with 'More Assertive' Russia

Alicia Keys performs Friday, March 12, 2004, in Sunrise, Fla. Beyonce, Missy Elliott and Keys started The Ladies First tour Friday night. (AP Photo/Mike Fuentes)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Obama stressed the need to deal with a “more assertive” Russia after a meeting in Washington today.

Both leaders made statements after their bilateral meeting but didn’t take questions from the press.

Obama said they discussed “the eastern side of the equation.”

“We continue to be united in supporting Ukraine in the wake of Russian incursions into Ukrainian territory. We continue to work in a train-and-assist fashion in helping support Ukraine develop its military capabilities defensively. We continue to provide reassurance to the frontline states there, our NATO allies, to make sure that they have not just reassurance of words, but that we have actually deployed concrete assets that let them know that Article 5 means something, and that we stand by our commitments to our allies,” Obama said, referring to the principle that holds an attack against one NATO member is an attack against all.

“And I have in my budget put forward a quadrupling of the resources that we spend, and allocated a portion of that money to make sure that we’ve got ground brigades that send a clear message about our commitments to our NATO allies to the east.”

The president said that “does not mean that we are not continuing to work with Russia to try to find resolution to the problems in Ukraine.”

“We think it is important to maintain a dialogue, and NATO has continued to consult with Russia and, in very transparent fashion, indicate the firmness of our resolve to protect our values and our allies, but also our interest in being able to reduce tensions and the dangers of potential escalation,” Obama added.

It’s been more than two years since Russia invaded Crimea.

Stoltenberg declared “NATO is as important as ever, because NATO has been able to adapt to a more dangerous world.”

“We are also responding to a more assertive Russia, responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine,” the secretary general said, telling Obama, “I very much welcome, again, the leadership that you have shown in increasing our collective defense in Europe with the European Reassurance Initiative, which is, as you’ve proposed, going to be quadrupled in the budget you have proposed for the Congress.”

“This is really a strong example of the Transatlantic bond, how the United States is important for the security of Europe and also over European allies — or the European allies are also stepping up, so together, we are now implementing the biggest reinforcement through our collective defense since the end of the Cold War,” Stoltenberg added.

The NATO chief was asked on MSNBC today about Donald Trump’s assertion that the alliance is outdated and needs to be “rejiggered, rechanged,” with the U.S. potentially exiting the alliance altogether.

Stoltenberg refused to comment on the presidential election. “It’s up to the people of America to decide who’s going to be the next president of United States,” he said.

The former prime minister of Norway noted that “when it comes to Russia, we implementing the biggest reinforcement of collective defense in Europe since the end of the Cold War.”

“That is important for Europe, but of course it’s also important for the United States, because a safe and secure Europe is also important for the security of the U.S.,” Stoltenberg said.