NATO told Moscow on Tuesday it would meet attacks on allies’ critical infrastructure with a “united and determined response” and was also monitoring Russia’s nuclear forces closely as the country was “losing on the battlefield” in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that while the defence alliance had not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture, it was vigilant and would proceed with a nuclear preparedness exercise of its own next week.
“Now is the right time to be firm and to be clear that NATO is there to protect and defend all allies… It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly now cancelled a routine, long-time-planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
He was referring to the annual “Steadfast Noon” drill, in which NATO air forces practise the use of US nuclear bombs based in Europe with training flights, without live weapons.
“It’s an exercise to ensure that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” Stoltenberg told a news conference ahead of a two-day meeting of the Western alliance’s defence ministers in Brussels.
He said NATO’s military strength was the best way to prevent any escalation of tensions with Russia, which has made veiled threats of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine, which it invaded on February 24th.
Stoltenberg also pledged to boost the protection of critical infrastructure in response to the attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, saying NATO had already doubled its presence in the Baltic and the North Seas to over 30 ships supported by aircraft and undersea activities.
“We will further increase protection of critical infrastructure in light of the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines,” he said.
It remains unclear who was behind the attack on the pipelines.
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