European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presented a united front Sunday against pressure on their organizations’ eastern borders from Russia and Belarus.
“It is important that the European Union and NATO work hand in hand,” von der Leyen told a news conference in Vilnius. “We are testing and coordinating our crisis responses during regular exercises; and we are stepping up our coordination, cooperation on resilience, on situational awareness and on fighting disinformation.”
The two leaders made a rare joint visit to Lithuania and Latvia this weekend to underscore unity amid the crisis sparked by Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko’s drive to push migrants to the borders of both Baltic countries and Poland, plus Russia’s menacing troop build-up in Crimea and close to eastern Ukraine.
Stoltenberg said the two organizations had held talks Sunday on advancing joint work, including through a declaration on areas of expanded cooperation. “We are stronger and safer when we work together,” he said.
He urged Russia to be “transparent, reduce tensions and de-escalate” the tension on Ukraine’s border.
“NATO remains vigilant,” Stoltenberg insisted. “We stand ready to defend all allies and we will continue to provide our partner Ukraine with political and practical support.”
Von der Leyen said EU nations would stand united in the face of Lukashenko’s “deliberate, cynical and dangerous” actions.
“Lukashenko has failed in his bid to undermine EU unity and solidarity. We are facing down his hybrid attack all together,” she stated. “But we are also well advised to learn the lessons. To deflect away from their internal problems, our opponents do not shy away from waging hybrid attacks on us.”
Faced with such hybrid threats, both NATO and the EU are currently undergoing reviews of their security strategies.