Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Nato to join Trump's anti-IS coalition

  • Stoltenberg said Nato went to Afghanistan "in a direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States" (Photo: nato.int)

Nato will join a US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) in a non-combat role, its secretary general has said.

Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed Montenegro as the next Nato member at a summit in Brussels on Thursday (25 May) and criticised Russia’s “aggressive actions” in Ukraine.

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  • Stoltenberg criticised Russia when asked on the subject by press in Brussels on Thursday (Photo: nato.int)

“We will agree on Nato’s membership in the [anti-IS] coalition. This will send a strong political message of Nato’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and improve coordination within the coalition”, he said ahead of the first Nato summit with US president Donald Trump and three days after the IS attack in Manchester in the UK.

“But it does not mean that Nato will engage in combat operations”, Stoltenberg said.

He said Nato would expand air surveillance over the jihadist group’s territory in Iraq and Syria and “establish a new terrorism intelligence cell” at the Nato HQ to help stop “foreign fighters”, referring to Nato country nationals who went to join IS.

The 68-nation anti-IS coalition was formed by the previous US administration.

Stoltenberg added that Nato states would “keep up the momentum” on hikes in defence spending in line with US demands on the issue.

He also noted that 13,000 Nato troops were still in Afghanistan in an operation that Nato allies launched “in a direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States”.

His comment came after Trump caused alarm earlier this year by criticising Nato, but the US president is expected to back Nato mutual defence in a speech in Brussels later on Thursday.

Nato expands

Stoltenberg welcomed “the prime minister of Montenegro, soon to be our 29th ally” to Thursday’s summit.

“This is important for Montenegro. It’s important for the Western Balkans and it’s important for the whole of Nato. It also shows that Nato’s door is open”, he said.

The Western Balkan country will join the alliance in June after a failed coup last year designed to halt the move that was blamed on Russia.

Stoltenberg defended Nato’s decision to deploy troops to the Baltic States and to Poland to deter Russian aggression, saying that the Nato forces “will be in place, all of them, within weeks”.

“This is a defensive deployment. It’s proportionate, measured and it’s a direct reaction to the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine”, he said.

Russia sanctions

He said there would be a brief discussion on Russia at Thursday’s summit and he endorsed the existing EU and US sanctions on Moscow.

“I support the sanctions. I think the sanctions are extremely important as a reaction to the illegal annexation of Crimea [by Russia from Ukraine] and the lack of implementation of the Minsk agreements”, he said.

The Minsk agreement is a ceasefire pact signed in the Belarusian capital which said that foreign forces, meaning Russian forces, had to leave east Ukraine, among other provisions.

Trump’s overtures to Russia have also caused alarm on a potential U-turn in US policy on Ukraine.

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