NATO allies need to invest more in defense, says alliance chief

<p>NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg</p>

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

LONDON – NATO allies need to invest more in defense spending as "we live in a more dangerous world," the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Speaking to British outlet Sky News in an exclusive interview, Stoltenberg said that, as a former politician, he knew it was always "more tempting" to invest in health care, education, and infrastructure.

But, he added, "when we live in a more dangerous world, when we see the aggressive actions of (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin against a sovereign, peaceful nation in Europe, Ukraine and all the threatening rhetoric against NATO allies, then we need to invest more."

Stoltenberg said the UK and US were spending more than 2 percent of their GDP -- the NATO guideline figure -- on defense, adding, "we need to do more together."

"More and more allies actually spend 2 percent or more on defense, and those who are not ... have clear plans in place" to reach to reach that goal," the NATO top official said.

Responding to a question on alleged deliberate damage to a nuclear reactor in Ukraine by Russian forces, Stoltenberg said it was "a very dangerous situation," for Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

He said it was "dangerous and it's reckless of Russia" that its forces were using the survey area around the Zaporizhzhya facility, which is Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, as a "launching pad for artillery for attacks on Ukrainian forces."

"So therefore, we need the International Atomic Energy Agency to have access to be able to inspect the site, we need the Russians to move their forces away from the nuclear power plant, and we need the Ukrainian operators to be able to do their work in a peaceful and controlled environment," Stoltenberg added.

He said Russia had launched its war against Ukraine in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the deployment of forces in the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow also supported separatist forces. "So, Russian aggression against Ukraine didn't start in February this year. It started eight years ago."

"Then, of course, what they saw this year was a full-fledged invasion. And that was an invasion they have planned for many months," he added.

Stoltenberg also asserted that Russian President Putin had an ambition to "re-establish some kind of sphere of influence" to control neighboring countries, particularly Ukraine.

The NATO chief said alliance members had supported Ukraine with military equipment and training since 2014, strengthening the country's armed forces.

"We should support Ukraine" in its right to defend itself, he said, adding that this was a right "enshrined in the UN Charter."

"This war will most likely end at the negotiating table. President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy stated that clearly. But, we know that what Ukraine can achieve on the negotiating table is thought to depend on the strength on the battlefield.

"And therefore, the best way we can ensure that the negotiations lead to a result which is acceptable for Ukraine is to provide military, economic, financial, humanitarian support Ukraine now," said Stoltenberg.

Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people "have to make final decisions on negotiations and what kind of agreement they are ready to go into," he added. (Anadolu)