NATO says European flanks defended by non-EU countries, including Turkey
Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP) after an address at the College of Europe in Belgium, Jens Stoltenberg warned that Europe's defense depends on close transatlantic bonds and not on a quest for the continent's strategic autonomy.
"I don't believe in Europe alone. I don't believe in North America alone. I believe in North America and Europe together in strategic solidarity in NATO," Stoltenberg said.
"Because I don't believe that any country or any continent alone can manage the security challenges we face today."
Stoltenberg’s remarks came as the European Commission is mulling a more "geopolitical role," with its own foreign and defense industry policy.
"More than 90 percent of the people in the European Union, they live in a NATO country. But only 20 percent of NATO's defense spending comes from NATO EU members," Stoltenberg said.
"But most importantly, this is about politics," Stoltenberg said. "Because any attempt to weaken the link, to divide Europe and North America, will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe."
"I support EU efforts on defense, because more defense spending, new military capabilities and addressing the fragmentation of the European defense industry - all of that will be good for European security, for transatlantic security, for all of us," he told AFP.
"So all these efforts - as long as they complement NATO - we welcome them, but the EU cannot defend Europe."
Stoltenberg was quoted by AFP to have said that the EU's flanks are defended in the north Atlantic from Russian encroachment by non-EU members the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
In the southeast, non-EU member Turkey sits on the borders with Syria and Iraq, he said, and added that it is "extremely important in the fight against Daesh and international terrorism."
Turkey has continued its struggle against the ISIL terror group, in 2020.
Turkish security forces maintained pressure on the group with operations in the country and on its borders.
According to figures compiled by Anadolu Agency, authorities detained 2,343 suspects, including so-called senior members of the group, seizing large amounts of documents, weapons, and ammunition.
Turkish president hails 'objective evaluations'
The Turkish president on March 5 hailed the NATO secretary-general's comments regarding the Euro-Atlantic security and defense matters.
“We would like to thank the NATO Secretary General @jensstoltenberg for his objective evaluations on Euro-Atlantic security and defense matters,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Twitter.
“Turkey, as a NATO ally, will continue to fulfill all its responsibilities and serve global peace and security,” he added.