World

NATO chief tells Congress U.S. can't face global challenges alone

The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization warned the U.S. Congress on Wednesday of the threat posed to the alliance by "a more assertive Russia," including its violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Jens Stoltenberg's address was part of 70th anniversary events in D.C. this week

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress Wednesday, with Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looking on, having been invited by the bipartisan leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization warned the U.S. Congress on Wednesday of the threat posed by "a more assertive Russia," including a massive military buildup, threats to sovereign states, the use of nerve agents and cyberattacks.

"We must overcome our differences now because we will need our alliance even more in the future. We face unprecedented challenges — challenges no one nation can face alone," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg, saying "time is running out," also called on Russia to return to compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which U.S. President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States this summer.

"NATO has no intention of deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe," Stoltenberg said in a speech that was an impassioned defense of the 70-year-old alliance. "But NATO will always take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence."

Stoltenberg, a two-time prime minister of Norway, is the first head of NATO to address a joint meeting of Congress.

'Stronger, safe and more secure'

Stoltenberg used his speech to give a ringing defence of "the most successful alliance in history," which has often been derided by Trump.

Members of Congress, who greeted Stoltenberg with repeated cheers and standing ovations, said they viewed his address to the joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate as a chance to reaffirm the American commitment to the NATO alliance.

"NATO has been good for Europe, but NATO has also been good for the United States," Stoltenberg said.

"The strength of a nation is not only measured by the size of its economy or the number of its soldiers, but also by the number of its friends," Stoltenberg added. "And through NATO the United States has more friends and allies than any other power. This has made the United States stronger, safer and more secure."

Trump has ruffled feathers among European allies by repeatedly saying NATO nations need to increase their military spending and ease the burden on the United States.

Smoothing over 'family squabbles'?

Earlier this year, before inviting Stoltenberg to Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of her fellow Democrats to Brussels, where they sought to reassure European allies that differences over Trump's policies were mere "family squabbles" and that transatlantic ties remained strong.

Stoltenberg, who met with Trump on Tuesday, said NATO member countries are boosting defence spending.

"In just the last two years, European allies and Canada have spent an additional $41 billion on defence. By the end of next year, that figure will rise to $100 billion," Stoltenberg said.

"This is making NATO stronger," he said.

Pence credited Trump's entreaties with having the desired effect in a social media post, while California Democrat Ro Khanna brought up the president's fractious approach to the alliance, stating, "We should celebrate the NATO alliance, even if our president does not."

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