By Jens Stoltenberg
“Russia will continue to seek to divide us. But Nato allies stand united. Twenty-nine countries — representing half the world’s military and economic might. That is why Britain does not stand alone.”
The attack in Salisbury was the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Nato soil since the alliance was created back in 1949. It involved one of the most toxic substances ever developed. And displayed total disrespect for human lives.
I was appalled when I heard about the attack in this small cathedral city, as people were going innocently about their daily lives.
All Nato allies stand in solidarity with the British people. And I discussed our response with Boris Johnson at Nato HQ in Brussels on Monday.
Nato allies have offered support to the investigation. We have called on Russia to address the UK’s questions, and to provide full disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Any use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security – an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules, which has no place in a civilised world.
Sadly, the attack in Salisbury comes against the backdrop of a reckless pattern of Russian behaviour over many years.
The illegal annexation of Crimea. Support to separatists in eastern Ukraine. Unwelcome Russian troops in Moldova and Georgia. Meddling in the domestic affairs of countries such as Montenegro.
Attempts to undermine our democratic elections and institutions.
Cyber-attacks and disinformation. And Russia has also been investing in new weapons, some of which can carry nuclear warheads. Nato has responded. Our defences are now stronger than at any point since the Cold War.
We have tripled the size of our multinational Nato response force to 40,000 troops – with a 5,000-strong spearhead force ready to deploy within 72 hours. We have stepped up air patrols over the Baltic and Black seas.
And we have deployed four battle groups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, with contributions from across the alliance – a clear demonstration that we stand together, all for one and one for all. Britain leads our battle group in Estonia.
I’ve met those troops myself. They’re not just keeping that country safe, they’re protecting the whole of Europe.
Whenever I meet the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces – be it in Estonia, Afghanistan or elsewhere – I’m always impressed by their professionalism and commitment.
They do an outstanding job, day-in and day-out. When it comes to Russia, Nato’s approach remains firm, defensive, and proportionate.
We won’t mirror Russia tank for tank, missile for missile, or soldier for soldier. And we’ll continue to combine strong deterrence and defence with the search for meaningful political dialogue.
When tensions run high, it’s important to talk to each other, to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations.
Nato does not want a new Cold War. And we do not want to be dragged into a new arms race. An arms race has no winners. It is expensive, risky, and in nobody’s interest.
Russia will continue to seek to divide us. But Nato allies stand united. Twenty-nine countries – representing half the world’s military and economic might.
That is why Britain does not stand alone.