Berlin / Brussels – NATO wants to play a bigger role in coping with the Corona crisis. “NATO has special capabilities that are in demand right now,” said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas before a video session with his NATO colleagues.
The SPD politician cited coordination by the military alliance and the joint procurement of goods as examples. There are advantages in terms of experience and size.
“It is now a matter of systematically collecting and coordinating the advantages and deciding which paths to take, what priorities to set,” said Maas. There are already many cases in which NATO partners could help each other on the basis of bilateral agreements. In this way, more than 100 patients from the countries hard hit by the coronavirus France and Italy would be treated in Germany.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also emphasized mutual support in the alliance on the previous day. “NATO is doing its part in this common struggle against an invisible enemy,” said the Norwegian. However, within the alliance, there is concern that opponents like Russia could take advantage of the situation and engage in more hostile activities. The alliance also advises on the correct handling of false messages from Russia and China.
Maas emphasized that NATO and the EU must defend themselves against such misinformation. There are some who have tried to exploit the current situation for propaganda purposes «to make themselves appear in a better light». Both within the military alliance and within the EU must respond to disinformation that has a state background with “countermeasures” based on facts.
Russia and China, in particular, are accused of wanting to capitalize on the Corona crisis through state propaganda. The EU Commission recently complained that a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus came from Russia. In part, the sources are connected to the Kremlin. According to the “EU vs Disinfo” campaign, between January 22 and April 1, 26 reports related to the Kremlin claimed that the EU was failing to deal with the Corona crisis.
Maas also made it clear on Thursday that, despite the Corona crisis, the German government would keep its NATO commitments to increase defense spending. “As far as the two percent target is concerned, what we’ve said so far applies,” he said. “We stand by our commitments.” NATO decided in 2014 that all member states should move closer to the goal of spending two percent of their gross domestic product on defense within ten years. The grand coalition later agreed to 1.5 percent by 2024, compared to 1.38 percent last year.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (both CDU) now want to reach the two percent target by the early 2030s. However, the entire federal government has not yet been determined. In view of the expected economic downturn due to the Corona crisis, Germany should automatically come a bit closer to the two percent target at least this year – because unlike in the past few years, GDP will not increase but will decrease.