EU defense plans ‘can never replace’ NATO, says Stoltenberg

Calls for a new European military force following the withdrawal from Afghanistan must not undermine NATO’s command structures or divert resources from the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned in an interview published Sunday.

“Any attempt to establish parallel structures, duplicate the command structure, that will weaken our joint capability to work together, because with scarce resources we need to prevent duplication and overlapping efforts,” Stoltenberg told the Telegraph.

The EU is set to propose a strategy document later this year that will address a proposal for a rapid entry force of several thousand troops. Calls for an autonomous European military capability have mounted in recent weeks after the U.S. decision to pull out from Afghanistan led to the Taliban regaining control of the county.

Stoltenberg said “specific proposals” on a such a European force have not been discussed in NATO and he has “not seen any details.”

“I welcome more European efforts on defence but that can never replace NATO and we need to make sure that Europe and North America band together,” Stoltenberg told the paper. “Any attempt to weaken the bond between North America and Europe will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe.”

The goal is to have a first draft of the EU defense plan by November and to unveil the final version at the start of 2022.

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