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Biden To Meet With NATO Allies On His 1st International Trip As President

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden will head to Europe this week for his first international trip since taking office. Biden will meet with the leaders of the G-7 countries, as well as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president will also meet with NATO allies in Brussels. And there's a lot at stake, from transnational security threats to the contentious relationship with Russia and the rise of China. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met yesterday with President Biden ahead of the NATO summit on Monday. Secretary-General Stoltenberg joins us now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being on the program.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. And good morning.

FADEL: So let's start with your meeting with President Biden. He's expressed a strong commitment to working with NATO, a very different tone than the previous administration. What did you and the president agree to during yesterday's meeting?

STOLTENBERG: We agreed on the importance of - in an age of global competition - to strengthen the trans-Atlantic bond, the bond between North America and Europe in NATO. And that's exactly what we're going to do when all the heads of state and government meet on - next Monday in Brussels. And they will make important decisions on how to further strengthen our alliance.

FADEL: Now, beyond Biden's reassurances to reset the relationship with European allies, what concrete actions would you like the U.S. to take to rebuild this fractured trans-Atlantic relationship?

STOLTENBERG: We are going to agree a document, a forward-looking agenda, which we have called NATO 2030, when all allies meet at the summit. And this document covers a wide range of different areas. It's about strengthening, you know, the defense, our collective defense. It's about strengthening resilience and sharpening our technological edge. We are going to establish a new center to make sure that we are working more closely together when it comes to developing technologies.

We also are also going to agree on how we are going to work more closely on issues like, for instance, climate change and security impact of that. So the NATO 2030 agenda is an ambitious, concrete program about how to make sure that NATO remains the most successful alliance in history.

FADEL: You know, let's turn to Russia now and its contentious relationship with the United States and with NATO. What do you see as the biggest threat that Russia poses?

STOLTENBERG: What we see is a pattern of Russian behavior where they have invested heavily in new modern military capabilities - nuclear and conventional - but also where they have been willing to use military power against neighbors, like we've seen in Georgia and the - and Ukraine. And then Russia has tried to meddle in our domestic political processes - cyberattacks, interfering in elections in different NATO-allied countries.

So we need to stand together and send a very clear message to Russia. And we have what we call a dual-track approach, meaning deterrence, defense but, at the same time, dialogue, talking to the Russians. And therefore, also, I welcome the fact that President Biden will meet President Putin. We also welcome the decision to extend the new START Treaty, which is this treaty that puts limits on the number of long-range nuclear missiles. So we need to be firm but also to sit down and talk to the Russians.

FADEL: Do you sense a reluctance at all among some European allies to confront Russia?

STOLTENBERG: No, I sense a very high degree of unity. Of course, when we are 30 allies from both sides of the Atlantic with different political parties in power, of course, there are some differences. But we unite around our core task, and that is to protect and defend each other. And we will, again, agree on this core message of deterrence, defense and dialogue.

Russia is our neighbor. Russia is there to stay. So we have to talk to them. At the same time, we should leave no room for miscalculation, misunderstanding about our willingness to protect and defend all allies. Also, against the cyber threats because you have seen recently that - we have seen serious cyberattacks against different NATO allies, including against the United States.

FADEL: Now, you've said that a serious cyberattack could trigger Article 5, NATO's collective defense clause. Can you explain sort of what that would mean, what that would entail?

STOLTENBERG: It means that back in 2016, actually, we made a decision in NATO that it's not only a conventional attack or a kinetic attack that can trigger what we call our collective on the defense clause of Article 5, saying that if one ally is attacked, it should be regarded as an attack on all allies. The first and only time we have triggered that clause was after the 9/11 attacks against the United States. And then we also meant that was a terrorist attack. But we have now made it clear that a cyberattack can be as serious and can be as damaging as a kinetic attack.

And therefore, we have made the decision that also cyberattacks can trigger a response from all NATO allies. That can be in cyberspace, but it can also be in other domains. And we have done a lot to strengthen our cyber defenses. We have established cyber as a military domain alongside air, land and sea. And we conduct huge exercises. We share best practices to help and support each other when it comes to cybersecurity, cyber defense.

FADEL: So who would make that determination? And would a response include military force?

STOLTENBERG: It will be the 30 allies that make the determination to - on whether to trigger Article 5 or not. But it has to - and, of course, that can then include military force. But we have to remember that we can do a lot also before we trigger Article 5, our collective defense clause, by sharing information, by supporting each other and also by calling out bad behavior, as we have done, for instance, now not so long time ago regarding these SolarWinds attack. So we stand together with allies, and we stand together with United States,

FADEL: In the few seconds we have left, I did want to ask you about China and how China fits into the new overall NATO strategy.

STOLTENBERG: China is a power, which is now investing heavily in new, modern military capabilities. They don't share our values. And therefore, we need to stand together as 30 allies in addressing the challenges that China poses on all of us.

FADEL: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, thanks for your time.

STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.