Brussels – NATO foreign ministers are due on Thursday to discuss their countries’ response to the global coronavirus pandemic, while stressing that the defence alliance remains ready to defend itself against any threat.
“Our primary objective is to ensure that this health crisis does not become a security crisis,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
The ministers will replace their regular talks with a videoconference, meeting for the first time in such a format due to restrictions on travel and physical interaction to contain the spread of the virus.
They are due to assess ways of coordinating response efforts more closely.
NATO has already helped deliver emergency supplies to its worst-hit members, such as Italy and Spain, while national armed forces are supporting domestic measures to combat the crisis.
At the same time, allies are concerned that NATO’s adversaries could exploit the situation and conduct hostile activities at a time when they are focused primarily on combating the potentially lethal disease.
The alliance is working to prevent the spread of disinformation around Covid-19, with many pointing the finger at Russia and China.
“This is not the time for blame and it’s not the time to try to divide our publics either,” U.S. ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said on Wednesday.
The ministers are expected to reiterate NATO’s resolve and readiness to respond to any acts of aggression.
They are also due to take decisions relating to NATO’s activities in Iraq and focus on developments in Afghanistan, while welcoming their 30th ally, North Macedonia, which joined the Western alliance last week.