NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was back in his native Norway this week in connection with Norway’s own terrorist attacks five years ago. He also faced some questions about NATO’s latest challenges posed by the coup in Turkey and some new blunt remarks by the US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but was guarded in his answers.
Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that NATO has not been weakened by the coup in Turkey that has sparked alarm among European leaders, also in Norway. Many, including Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende, have called on Turkish leaders to follow the rule of law and maintain principles of democracy and human rights. There’s widespread concern that Turkey’s already-authorative president will use the coup as a chance to crack down further on his own political opponents. As of Friday afternoon, thousands had been arrested.
Stoltenberg said, however, that “nothing has changed” since the coup and NATO’s presence in Turkey, which is a member of NATO, will continue. One of the military bases used by the US-led coalition that’s bombing terrorist group ISIL in Syria and Iraq was closed and electricity cut off following the coup. It was reopened within a day.
Stoltenberg indicated he is also concerned about the crackdown on political opponents in Turkey since the coup. “It’s of course important that they create calm and respect for democratic institutions,” Stoltenberg told NRK. “I have stressed that in conversations with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglun and President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan after the coup.”
The NATO chief was not willing, however, to comment on provocative comments made by Trump this week that he wouldn’t necessarily allow the US to participate in the defense of a fellow NATO member nation. Stoltenberg did repeat that NATO is “a defense alliance, based on the fundamental principle of ‘all for one and one for all.’ That has secured peace and stability in Europe for many decades, and reduced the risk for conflict.”