Top US commander in Afghanistan meets with Taliban to discuss reduction in violence – Task & Purpose

Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan U.S. General Austin S. Miller attends a meeting in the Kandahar Governor's Compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, October 18, 2018.

(Reuters photo)

KABUL (Reuters) - The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan met Taliban leadership in Doha to discuss the need to reduce violence in the war-torn country, spokesmen for both sides said on Saturday, as continued clashes threaten to derail a fragile peace process.

The meeting between Taliban leaders and General Scott Miller, commander of U.S. forces and the NATO-led non-combat Resolution Support mission in Afghanistan, took place on Friday night. It came as the insurgent group accuses U.S. forces of breaching an agreement signed between the two sides in February.

"General Miller met with Taliban leadership last night as part of the military channel established in the agreement," a spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan told Reuters. "The meeting was about the need to reduce the violence," he said.

The February pact between the United States and the Taliban, under which international forces will withdraw in phases in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, is the best chance yet of ending the 18-year U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

The spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha also said on Twitter that the meeting discussed implementation of the agreement.

The Taliban last week accused U.S. forces of supporting Afghan security operations in some parts of the country, and warned that such support could jeopardize the agreement.

The spokesman for the U.S. forces described the latter's actions as defense of Afghan forces.

The Taliban are to sit for negotiations with an inclusive Afghan delegation as part of the agreement, but a prisoner exchange preceding the talks has hit snags.

The Afghan government released a total of 200 Taliban prisoners on Wednesday and Thursday, but the insurgent group had walked away from the exchange process saying its demand on who was to be released first was not met.

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Top US commander in Afghanistan meets with Taliban to discuss reduction in violence - Task & Purpose

One NATO country is using the coronavirus as a weapon of war – The Canary

Across the world, countries are struggling to deal with coronavirus (Covid-19). But one NATO country, Turkey, is using the pandemic as a weapon of war and a tool of repression.

Both domestically and in its war in the North East of Syria (aka Rojava), the Turkish state is seizing the opportunity of coronavirus to continue its war against majority Kurdish communities.

On 3 April,Kurdistan 24 reported that:

Shelling by Turkish-backed armed groups on Thursday caused severe damage to a water pipeline, one of their many recent intentional actions to block the crucial resource for some 460,000 civilians in Syrias northern Hasakah province

Meanwhile, UNICEFs representative in Syria Fran Equiza warned that:

The interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk. Handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against COVID-19.

Coronavirus is already present in Syria. And a tweet from theRojava Information Centerhighlights how dire the situation is for those living there:

According a Human Rights Watch 2019 report on Turkey:

An estimated 8,500 peopleincluding elected politicians and journalistsare held in prison on remand or following conviction for alleged links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK/KCK) and many more on trial but at liberty, although official figures could not be obtained.

And Reporters Without Borders describes Turkey as:

the worlds biggest jailer of professional journalists.

But not only is Turkey excluding political prisoners from its plans to release 90,000 prisoners due to the pandemic, its also using the virus as a threat. The Morning Star reported that the Arrested & Convicted Families Law Solidarity Associations Federation (Med Tuhad-Fed) claimed authorities told prisoners:

You have to obey the rules, otherwise we will bring in someone who has the coronavirus.

And as theMorning Star stated, Med Tuhad-Fed warned that:

A lack of cleaning and a refusal to refer prisoners displaying symptoms to medical units is risking a serious outbreak of Covid-19 among Turkeys bulging prison population.

The pandemic also hasnt stopped what many people would consider the normal repression communities face in Turkey. On 3 April,ANF News reported that musician Helin Blek had died as a result of undertaking a death fast. Blek was part of Group Yorum, a popular music group that had faced harassment and repression from the Turkish state.

ANF News provided background to the case:

Over the last three years, the police have raided at least eight times the dil Cultural Center in stanbul, where the band carries out its activities. During the raids, musical instruments of the band were either broken or taken away, music books damaged. According to a statement by the band, the police arrested a total of 30 people in these raids. Band members initiated a hunger strike in June 2019 in protest of these attacks. The band demands the release of its arrested members, removal of arrest warrants against some other members, termination of incessant police raids into the dil Cultural Center, and an end to arbitrary bans on their concerts and cultural events.

But mourners were not even allowed to grieve by the Turkish states. Reports on Twitter show people attacked the funeral with tear gas and water cannons:

While coronavirus means many forms of mobilisation are not available to people, there is still resistance. In particular, on 4 April, social media users took the opportunity of his 71st birthday to remind people of Kurdish leader Abdullah calans situation.

calanco-founded the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish freedom and autonomy since the 1970s. He was given a life sentence and has been imprisoned by Turkey for over 20 years and is held in solitary confinement on mral prison island.

AsThe Canary previously reported:

Turkey has now fought against the PKK for decades. And there have been biglosseson both sides (as in most conflicts, civilians were oftencaught in the middle). Today, however, the PKK and its alliescondemnall attacks on civilians. Yet since 2015, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoan has sought torepressall of his political opponents by labelling them either terrorists or terrorist sympathisers (andkillingor arresting them accordingly). European courts havecriticisedthis tactic insistingthat the PKKis aparty to an armed conflict and not a terrorist organisation. The PKK has alsoreportedlynever attacked Western targets.

London Kurdistan Soldiarty put his confinement in the context of the isolation many of us are currently experiencing:

And it reminded people of the ongoing criminalisation of Kurdish communities and solidarity activists in the UK. It also demanded the release of Daniel Burke, currently on remand in the UK, accused of terrorism for attempting to travel to Rojava:

Using coronavirus as a weapon and a threat is hideous. Although given Turkeys humanitarian record, its perhaps unsurprising. And it means that now, more than ever, we need to raise our voices for those in prisons, and for those being repressed, killed, and threatened by the Turkish state.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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One NATO country is using the coronavirus as a weapon of war - The Canary

How Russia is influencing the EU and NATO during the pandemic – New Eastern Europe

While the Kremlin has concentrated on the crisis unfolding in Western Europe, serious problems loom at home as the pandemic spreads further into the Russian heartland.

April 9, 2020 - Maksym Skrypchenko- Articles and Commentary

Ilyushin Il-76 Russian transport plane. Photo: Rob Schleiffert (cc) wikimedia.org

While Italy continues to record the largest number of deaths during the COVID-19 crisis, Russian President Putin has sent nine Il-76 military airplanes to Rome, carrying more than 100 specialists, some medical equipment (including truck-based units for disinfection) and testing devices. The planes and trucks bore giant stickers showing heart-shaped Russian and Italian flags with the slogan From Russia with Love in both languages. Russian media claimed it to be an act of goodwill free from any political pretext. At the same time, Italys daily La Stampa reported that 80 per cent of the Russian supplies are not useful to the countrys health services.

It is worth saying that this entire mission is the work of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Even the specialists are Russian military officers whose expertise is decontamination. This was one of the reasons why the airplanes had to change their route to avoid the airspace of some northeastern European countries Moscow would need to ask permission to fly over them.

Last month, whenCOVID-19 began spreading rapidly in Italy, the country appealed for help viathe Emergency Response Coordination Centre. We asked for supplies of medicalequipment, and the European Commission forwarded the appeal to the memberstates. But it didnt work, Italys permanent representative to the EU,Maurizio Massari, stated in an interview with Foreign Policy. After theoutbreak in Italy, EU or NATO members were not able to send immediate help.

Putin sent nine airplanes within 24 hours of his phone conversation with Prime Minister Conte. At that moment, Rome had not received any substantial help from the EU or NATO members. First of all, EU governments decided to close their national borders. Secondly, all European states are still suffering from a dramatic shortage of masks and medical equipment to fight the pandemic. Face masks, being the cheapest protection items to be bought in large numbers, are today a scarce product and it is very difficult to buy enough for a whole countrys population. As a result, it is increasingly hard to export such masks to other countries. Some EU countries are expecting a situation similar to Italy in the coming weeks and they subsequently do not feel comfortable sending masks to Rome. This logic also applies to ventilators, medicinal drugs and protective suits.

Even so, afterRussian planes had landed in Italy, some EU members decided to send millions offace masks and thousands of protective suits (Germany, France, Austria and theCzech Republic). Some countries, like Poland and Germany, sent experienceddoctors and also agreed to fly some critical patients to their hospitals. NATO isalso now using aircraft to transport patients and medical supplies. No matterhow useless or politically motivated it was, Russian aid attracted muchattention among the media as one of the first states to lend Italy a helpinghand.

Russian flags onthe trucks driving around Italy could affect Romes attitude towards the EU andNATO, which were not able to allocate resources at the same time as Moscow. Polishdoctors do not wear a specific uniform with national symbols like Russianmilitary officers. NATO placed trucks at Italian disposal without any alliancesymbols. A resident of Bergamo, the city worst hit by the coronavirus, would notbe able to differentiate between Italian military trucks and those provided byNATO. At the same time, Russian vehicles, which are not typical for the region,do possess many distinctive flags and symbols.

The nature ofthis military operation is also unprecedented for Moscow Russianspecialists are gaining access to Italys health and military system, which ispart of a larger NATO structure. One of the largest and most important USmilitary bases in Italy is located just two hours from the Bergamo area. Russianstate media continue to report that the countrys soldiers have been travellingin the very heart of Europe along NATO roads. It is clear that Putinwill demand that the operation continues regardless of any internaldevelopments. After all, the Kremlins prestige is at stake.

Italy is a NATOmember which has 166 soldiers based in Latvia as part of NATOs Enhanced ForwardPresence, which is ultimately an effort to deter Russia. A few days afterMoscow sent its specialists to Italy, NATO jets intercepted a Russian militaryaircraft in the Baltic Sea close to Latvia.

An EU internal document seen by Reuters accused Russian media of deploying a significant disinformation campaign against the West in order to worsen the impact of the coronavirus. Of course, Moscow denied any such plan. While not mentioning Russia by name, the EUs foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on his blog that the EU needed to be more aware of a struggle for influence through spinning and the politics of generosity.

Although Putin says that there is no need to declare a state of emergency due to Moscows level of preparation for the pandemic, many Russian media reports have stated that the situation inside Russia is deteriorating and is only being made worse by deliberate government misinformation. According to official statistics, there are some 10,000 persons infected in Russia. However, independent media reports believe that there has been an ARVI and pneumonia outbreak in many large cities, as well as in the regions in close proximity to Russia-China border. Moscow does not have enough kits to test even those living in the capital. Many people with pneumonia, as Lenta reports, cant find out if they have been infected with COVID-19 because there are no test kits. Russian Vostok-media has provided stories of people in the Russian Far East, close to China, which claim that a strange flu is making many elderly people sick.

It is clear that the Kremlin is scared of any potential societal panic due to the economic crisis already affecting Russia. Sanctions over Ukraine and the collapse of crude oil prices have already defanged the Russian economy. Due to this, the coronavirus crisis may become a black swan event for the country. Despite this, Putin knows that the situation is critical and that he needs to mobilise all available resources. So why did he decide to send experienced Russian experts, ventilators, masks and even trucks to Italy when his own local authorities should be using them?

On March 18th, KonstantinKosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Councilof Russia, called for a global lifting of sanctions, except those imposed bythe United Nations, due to the spread of coronavirus and the ongoing situationin the oil market. Of course, Russias own sanctions resulting from its actionsin Ukraine were not imposed by the UN, but rather the European Union andAmerica.

A year ago, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stated that his government was trying to lift EU sanctions against Russia. The belief that Italy should respond to a hypothetical Russian attack on a NATO ally has become less common over time, decreasing from 40 per cent in 2015 to just 25 per cent in 2019 according to the Pew Research Center. The European Parliament has also reported a downward trend regarding the EU, with just 44 per cent of Italians surveyed stating that they would vote to remain a member. This is the lowest rate of support for EU membership among all 27 states.

It is alsoimportant to note that China was also one of the first states to help Italy.Certainly, it is still the biggest exporter of medical aid to affected countrieswhilst it simultaneously attempts to sell even more equipment. However, Beijingis still blamed for the coronavirus outbreak so its help is useful, at the veryleast, in restoring the bilateral status quo. Beijing has sold medicalequipment to many countries which are now returning it due to its lack ofquality.

Swedensexperience with China provides a clear example of the underlying politics oftenpresent in Beijings gift giving. It did not receive any medical aid from Chinaeven after it requested help. Elisabeth Braw believes that this is because of Swedishsupport for the imprisoned Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who was blamed for illegallyproviding intelligence overseas.

On April 2nd, Donald Trump stated that a Russian airplane full of medical stuff was preparing to land at New Yorks John F. Kennedy airport in the late afternoon. Trump expressed gratitude for 60 tons of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items. While Russian media were reporting about another successful Kremlins aid mission, one of the US officials told Reuters that Washington had to pay for that airplane. However, he admitted that the price was below market value. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Washington had only paid half the cost. Putin failed to present it as a gift but Trump anyway extended thanks for any help.

Overall, it is very important for state leaders to see the difference between real aid efforts and those tied to political interest. It is critical to remember that sanctions are ultimately imposed to exert pressure on dictatorial governments rather than people. Moscow waged war against Georgia in 2008. A year later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a reset button which was to symbolise a new era of relation between the Kremlin and the West. In 2014, Russia occupied Crimea and Donbas and established separatist republics. The EU and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity. This war is not over, soldiers and civilians die every day and sanctions are increasing every year. Consequently, there is only one condition for the sanctions to be lifted Russia should abandon Ukraine and restore the borders as they were before the conflict. Otherwise, it would only legitimise the actions of others who violate international law.

Maksym Skrypchenko is a cofounder of Ukrainian TranslatlanticPlatform and a Deputy Director of Security Initiative Center residing in Kyiv. His main areas of expertise are conflictology, Eastern Europe, Ukraine-EU and Ukraine-NATO relations.

Covid-19 pandemic, European Union, NATO, Russian foreign policy, Russian influence

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How Russia is influencing the EU and NATO during the pandemic - New Eastern Europe

Coronavirus response: Turkey dispatches medical supplies to Allies and partners in the Balkans – NATO HQ

An A-400M cargo plane of the Turkish Air Force carrying medical supplies donated by Turkey was dispatched to a number of Allies and partners in the Balkans region on Wednesday (8 April 2020).

The medical supplies were provided by the Turkish Ministry of Health to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak in North Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.

The supplies include masks, overalls and test kits and left from Ankara's Etimesgut Airbase on a Turkish Army aircraft earlier today.

The medical supplies were sent in crates displaying the words of 13th century poet Jalaluddin Rumi: "There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.

North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina requested assistance via NATOs Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). The EADRCC is NATOs principal disaster response mechanism. The Centre operates on a 24/7 basis, coordinating requests from NATO Allies and partners, as well as offers of assistance to cope with the consequences of major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Turkish initiative is the latest example of Allied efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Turkey sent another A-400M cargo plane of the Turkish Air Force carrying medical supplies to Spain and Italy.

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Coronavirus response: Turkey dispatches medical supplies to Allies and partners in the Balkans - NATO HQ

Could Movie Theaters Reopen by Early June? Thats the Optimism of NATO – IndieWire

Top brass from the National Association of Theatre Owners struck an optimistic tone during a webinar Friday, as VP Patrick Corcoran said he expects movie theaters to begin to reopen by late May or early June and ramp up to a summer blockbuster season beginning in July.

The webinar, hosted by NATO magazine Boxoffice Pro and viewed by exhibitors, concessionaires, theater vendors, and journalists from around the world, represented the latest effort by the trade group to offer guidance and soothe an industry facing an unprecedented crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to NATO president John Fithian, We anticipate when we first open cinemas back up anywhere in the world, well have social distancing. This would include enforcing 50 percent auditorium capacity,a measure that was common if brief, before US theaters closed their doors in March. Well return to the very intense cleaning procedures and anything else the health officials recommend.

His hope is that within a couple of weeks of reopening of theaters, theyll be on full blast.

We essentially need to go through the period where the government is confirming that the threat has been abated, Fithian said.

That timeline coincides with the pandemic picture painted by President Donald Trump, who last week abandoned his earlier hope that things could return to normal by mid-April and extended social distancing guidelines through the end of the month. He suggested that by June 1, a lot of great things will be happening.

Other governments have less hopeful projections. In New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak, Governor Andrew Cuomo last month forecast the coronavirus spread could last up to nine months, with up to 80 percent of the population contracting the virus. And California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday confirmed that school campuses will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, which runs through mid-June at some institutions.

Here are some key takeaways from the NATO webinar.

NATO is urging its theater-owner members to rely on government programs created as part of the $2 trillion stimulus bill to ease their pain. The group said they lobbied Congress to ensure theaters could enjoy some of the benefits. We wanted liquidity for our members so they can get through this, Corcoran said.

Among those are Small Business Association loan and grant programs, some of which are partly forgivable contingent on businesses retaining employees and keeping payroll going.

The first thing I would say is you should be talking to your banker right now, Corcoran said.

Moving forward, NATO expects to see some conflicts arise surrounding the number of programs in which businesses can participate. The group is lobbying officials to ensure rules are clear, and discussing additional stimulus programs in the pipeline.

Nearly all of the 65,000-plus employees of the countrys three largest circuits, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, have been laid off or furloughed. Theres also tens of thousands more who worked at small chains and local theaters.

Taking care of the employees is equally important, and a key concern because we want them to stick with us, Fithian said. We want employees that are trained and believe in the cinema experience.

For that, NATO is again counting on government assistance. The Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation on Monday launched a fund with an initial $2.4 million to provide grants to exhibition workers facing financial needs due to the coronavirus outbreak.

To start, $300 grants are available to experienced workers those with at least five years in the business. (Larger grants may be available on a case-by-case basis.)The money is meant to supplement government relief, such as the additional $600 per week for unemployment claims provided by the stimulus bill.

Closed theaters presented studios with a choice: Push back theatrical release dates or send movies straight to VOD. The most prominent example came when Universal announced last month it would release the animated musical Trolls World Tour for premium rental April 10. Fithian took pains to draw a distinction between the VOD debut of Trolls which he described as a mistake to on-demand movies that saw their theatrical runs cut short by theater closures.

Trolls: World Tour

Universal

Fithian downplayed the idea that the Trolls move represented a threat to theatrical.

Im very confident that for almost all distributors, almost all movies will get postponed, he said. We believe that was a bad decision, but one movie does not change a model. All the other movies are being postponed for later theatrical release.

That assessment overlooked another film, the Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae-starrer The Lovebirds, which was scheduled for release by Paramount April 3 and is now heading straight to Netflix theater chains public enemy number 1.

Asked what hes been hearing from studios, Fithian said The conversations are not suggesting significant changes in the business model. The conversations are how do we survive as an industry.

Fithian cited the Gulf War as a would-be analog to the current pandemic; during that time, Israeli cinemas were closed. When they reopened, the population flocked to cinemas for months.

We strongly believe there will be a rush to cinemas to see all kinds of movies because people will just want to connect with their family and friends once its safe to do so, he said.

However, the Gulf War happened three decades ago a time when the exhibition business was very different, and VOD didnt exist. Also, the threats of war are very different than a pandemic.

Bobbie Bagby, executive VP at Texas chain B&B Theatres, said its key for cinemas to engage with their audiences online. She also suggested launching an industrywide campaign that rallies people behind a message of seeing movies together. It would encourage them to sign a pledge that theyll head to the theater once the threat dissipates, and to sign up for an alert that lets them know when their local theaters open.

Tom Brueggemann contributed reporting.

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Could Movie Theaters Reopen by Early June? Thats the Optimism of NATO - IndieWire

Meet Major Stephen Dicks, a chaplain deployed to Europe with the US 1st Cavalry Division – NATO HQ

Major Stephen Dicks is 45 years old and serves in the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery of the United States Army. Based at Fort Hood, Texas, this division is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the US Army. But the major is not an artilleryman he is a chaplain.

My job entails ensuring the free exercise of religion for soldiers, explains Major Dicks. This includes performing religious services, weddings, baptisms, funerals and sermons. It also includes facilitating for the religious needs of soldiers that are different from my faith group.As part of the commanders senior staff, it is his responsibility to advise the commander on matters of morale, morals, ethics and religion.

In his spare time, Dicks has been a cartoonist for many years. He has even had the privilege of drawing cartoons for two US presidents both of whom gave him an autographed copy of his cartoon in return.

For exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20, Dicks was deployed to Germany. The country is not new to him. In the 1970s, his father was stationed in Wildflecken, Germany, together with a good friend who invited him to visit his home in the United States, where he fell in love with his friends daughter. They got married and went back to Germany where Major Dicks was born in the city of Wrzburg in northern Bavaria.

The very fact that I am now the soldier serving where my father once served fills me with happiness, says Dicks.

Training with other Allied units

During DEFENDER-Europe 20, NATO Allies tested their ability to move quickly across the Atlantic and Europe and to work together to protect each other from any potential threat.

From January to March 2020, the US Army moved approximately 6,000 soldiers from the United States to Europe, as well as 9,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks, and about 3,000 pieces of equipment via sea from the United States. Moreover, in coordination with other Allies, it also completed movement of soldiers and equipment from multiple ports to training areas in Germany and Poland.

Dicks believes it is important to exercise with other NATO Allies. The United States military has continually worked with NATO Allies for years, especially over the last two decades of conflicts around the world. Since we work together on the battlefield, it is important to train together because we will fight like we train, therefore we must train as a multinational team of Allies.

Dealing with the COVID-19 crisis

In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20 was modified in size and scope. On 13 March 2020, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe ceased. Allied forces, however, continue to preserve their readiness, if needed.

The health and well-being of all soldiers, civilians andfamily members is a top priority and critical to our readiness, concludes Major Dicks.

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Meet Major Stephen Dicks, a chaplain deployed to Europe with the US 1st Cavalry Division - NATO HQ

Coronavirus gives NATO a chance to demonstrate its worth | TheHill – The Hill

On March 27, North Macedonia became NATOs 30th member, expanding the Alliances direct area of responsibility to much of the Balkans, with the exceptions of Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Bosnia is negotiating to enter the Alliance, and Kosovo has indicated it intends to apply. Whether NATO has the resources, the will or, for that matter, the ability to defend every one of its members and certainly any more members is an open question.

Four days after North Macedonias accession, the U.S. Navy placed all but the skeleton crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in quarantine to halt the spread of the coronavirus onboard the ship. The decision underscores the tenuous nature of NATOs ability to defend its members against external aggression. The carriers commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, who asked the Navy for assistance after several of his crewmen contracted COVID-19, had asserted that the situation would be different in wartime because in combat we are willing to take certain risks that are not acceptable in peacetime. (Crozier since has been relieved of his command.)

Whether the United States, or any other NATO member would undertake those risks during a crisis, or in the face of an aggressors gray zone operation against one of its weaker members such as North Macedonia, is not that clear, however. Indeed, the Alliances flaccid collective response to the challenge of the coronavirus points to its lack of cohesion and does not augur well for its ability to mobilize militarily in the face of an impending threat to one or more of its members.

NATOs foreign ministers released a statement Thursday after discussing the COVID-19 threat by video conference, saying in part, Allies continue to stand together and support each other in the pandemic, through different NATO arrangements, as well as bilaterally, and that the ministers will consider what more can be done.

But in fact, the NATO states have not done much to assist one another in combating the coronavirus. It took weeks, and hundreds of deaths, before Italy began to receive aid from its European neighbors. Until mid-March, China was Italys major source of protective masks. NATO created the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) in 1998, but tellingly, it did not issue its first situation report until April 1. At the same time, it has received requests from seven nations including a North Macedonian request for 500,000 masks and 800,000 nitrile gloves to which it has yet to respond. Thus far, only Turkey and the Czech Republic have completed deliveries to Spain and Italy.

France, which had started to supply large numbers of masks to Italy, now is running short of its own supply of masks and is in need of ventilators as well. Thus far, it does not appear to have received much, if any, assistance from its NATO or European Union partners.

In his statement welcoming North Macedonia to NATO, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called it great news in a difficult time. The time is certainly difficult, but the news may not be that great. The alliance is stretched thin and North Macedonias entry stretches it thinner. NATO simply has too many members and too few that can make a material contribution to its defenses. Its cohesion in the face of a threat is not a foregone conclusion.

The travails of the Theodore Roosevelt highlight the reality that NATOs forces even those of the United States may be insufficiently robust to overcome extraordinary challenges, such as the coronavirus, that would reduce its readiness and responsiveness in a crisis. And the go-it-alone policies of NATOs member states, most especially the United States, in combating the coronavirus do little to inspire confidence that all, or even most, members can be relied upon to invoke Article 5, which calls for their common response if one of their counterparts comes under attack.

As the coronavirus rages on, it offers NATO a chance to demonstrate its credibility to operate as a unit for the benefit of all members. The Alliance, together with its partners, should build upon its creation of the EADRCC to develop a common plan for the most efficient distribution of masks, protective gear, ventilators and other badly needed commodities including any newly developed vaccines among all member states.

In addition, now that the Trump administration has finally recognized the seriousness of the threat that the virus poses, it should assume its historic NATO role and lead both the planning effort and its rapid implementation. There is no time to lose. Too many lives remain in serious peril.

Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was under secretary of Defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004 and a deputy under secretary of Defense from 1985 to 1987.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to reflect that Kosovo is not yet negotiating to join NATO.

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Coronavirus gives NATO a chance to demonstrate its worth | TheHill - The Hill

Tensions flare up between Greece and Turkey during NATO meeting – Greek City Times

Tensions erupted between the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers during a meeting on Thursday, according to diplomatic sources who spoke to CNN Greece. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlt avuolu reiterated some of the fake news that his countrys media and leaders have been spreading about Greece during the migration crisis that Turkey unleashed in March.

Ankara claimed that Greek border forces tortured and killed illegal immigrants, something that Turkey attempted to disseminate to international media to discredit Greece with little effect or success. Greek City Times has already debunked the Turkish fake news relating to the migration crisis. However, we must remind our readers that Turkey isone of the lowest ranked countriesfor media freedoms in the world, is the second most susceptible country surveyed on the European continentto fake news, has themost imprisoned journalistsin the whole world, and90% of media is government controlled.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was not tolerating any of the allegations made by avuolu and immediately took the floor during the online NATO conference to inform the alliance thatGreece faced an orchestrated and unprecedented attackon its border and a disinformation campaign from Turkey. Themethods used by Turkey violated the supposed values of NATO, adding that all so-called allies have the right to call for NATOs solidarity, but only if they honour their commitments.

The Turkish Foreign Minister became so enraged by Dendias comments that he called for a second opportunity to speak. This was promptly rejected by NATO Secretary GeneralJens Stoltenberg. avuolu clearly thought he was dealing with the Turkish public where he can disseminate the fake news with a high level of believability and little scrutiny, and became frustrated with the rejection that he resigned from the meeting even before the conference was over.

On Twitter, Dendias said During the Council of Foreign Ministers of the NATO member states, I referred to the recent developments in Evros and the instrumentalization of people, which undermines the values of the Alliance, but offered no further details to what the diplomatic source revealed.

Both Greece and Turkey became NATO members in 1952, becoming the first new members of the alliance since the formation of it from the original 12 founders. Despite technically becoming NATO allies, relations have remained hostile between Greece and Turkey, mostly notably during the 1955 Istanbul pogrom when the Greek population of the city decreased from 116,108 to 49,081, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the 1996 Imia Island crisis.

In 2019, Turkish war planes violated Greeces airspace 4,811 times and Ankara redrew the maritime borders of the Eastern Mediterranean on a new map with the Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya. The new map claimed large swathes of Greeces maritime space. NATO has not condemned or punished Turkey for any of its hostile actions against Greece.

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Tensions flare up between Greece and Turkey during NATO meeting - Greek City Times

EU Foreign Policy Chief proposes creating European Military Task Force to work in cooperation with … – The Nation

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has proposed establishing a European military task force that will compliment and work in cooperation with NATO, the EUs foreign policy chief said at a press briefing on Monday after EU defence ministers held a video conference.

Borrell praised the work of armed forces across the bloc for their efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease and work infacilitating the building of fieldhospitals and ensuring deliveries of medical supplies. With the challenge of COVID-19 still looming, the EUs foreign policy chief proposed establishing a task force to coordinate responses and efforts across the continent.

"We agreed with the ministers to explore how we could use the military expertise at EU level to support the exchange of information and thesharing of best practicesamong member states and to do so, we could set up a task force within the European External Action Service, led by the European military staff," Borrell stated.

Despite European countries requiring their own distinct alliance in order to liaise and respond to the challenges the continent faces, Borrell stated that any potential task force would alsocooperate with NATO.

"This will be done in full compliance, in full coordination and complementarity with NATO. I can assure you there will not be a duplication of work, but it is important that we Europeans work together to ensure a coordinated effort and mutual supportwhere it is needed, in full solidarity," he said.

Brussels is working diligently to protect the health of military and civilian personnel currently engaged in missions abroad amid the current health crisis, Borrell stated. However, theEuropean Union is still tryingto continue its missions wherever possible in order to avoid worsening security conditions, he added.

During a press briefing after Fridays video conference of EU foreign ministers, Borrell called for the bloc toprovide greater assistanceto Africa during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The EU also supports calls for a global ceasefire at the current time, he stated.

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EU Foreign Policy Chief proposes creating European Military Task Force to work in cooperation with ... - The Nation

NATOs nemeses Russia & China help its member-states amid Covid-19 pandemic FAR MORE than the alliance itself – RT

NATO, struggling to justify its existence, has found a new role for itself as an indefatigable fighter against the Covid-19 pandemic. But so far, it has contributed significantly less to this fight than its supposed rivals.

During a NATO foreign ministers meeting, held earlier this month by secure video conference, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared, NATO was created to deal with crises. So we can help and our Alliance is playing its part. NATO was on the case. But what exactly was it doing? Here Stoltenberg became vague: NATO would apparently offer logistical, transport and medical help to member-states fighting the pandemic.

Russia and China have of course been providing logistical, transport and medical help all over the world for weeks, but NATO makes it sound as if it alone is doing anything, and rushes to take credit for aid that in reality has nothing to do with the alliance.

On March 30, a cargo aircraft from China landed in the Czech Republic to deliver respirators and face masks. This was the third such transport flight from China to the Czech Republicunder the NATO supported Strategic Airlift International Solution, NATO proudly announced. So, China delivers medical equipment, and NATO takes the credit?

Recently, NATO member-state Turkey was supposed to deliver medical supplies to NATO member-states Spain and Italy. Once again NATO rushed to take credit. Stoltenberg was proud to see NATO Allies supporting each other through our disaster relief centre. Understandably, Stoltenberg didnt address Spains complaint that Turkey had seized hundreds of ventilators and sanitary equipment that Spain had already paid for. The ventilators had reportedly been manufactured in Turkey on behalf of a Spanish firm that bought the components from China. Subsequently, Turkey ordered all domestic mask producers to produce exclusively for the Turkish state.

Lack of cooperation among NATO member-states has become endemic. In the US, the Trump administration ordered healthcare equipment firm 3M to stop exporting N95 respirator masks to Canada and Latin America. In response, Justin Trudeau, Canadas prime minister threatened retaliation: We have an enormous number of products that are essential for the United States in their fight against Covid-19. Canada, he said, provides the US doctors, nurses, testing kits and key ingredients for the N95 masks.

Meanwhile, Germany accused the US of engaging in modern piracy by diverting in Bangkok, Thailand, 200,000 facemasks that were destined for Germany. France also complained when the US seized a consignment of masks bound for France from China. The masks were on a plane at Shanghai airportwhen the U.S. buyers turned up and offered three times what their French counterparts were paying, the Guardian reported.

Germany, in turn, had initially banned the export of medical masks and other protective gear to Italy. Though Germany did eventually relent, there was no relenting on Spain, Italy and Frances plea that coronavirus-incurred debt be shared out in the form of corona-bonds. Germanys refusal infuriated the Italians so much, that a group of Italian mayors and politicians bought a page in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to remind Germany that it had not been forced to pay back its debts after World War II.

In stark contrast to the reluctance of NATO member-states to do much for one another, China and Russia have been delivering aid all over the world, including NATO countries. Russia sent masks and ventilators to the United States; and ventilators, medical equipment and military virologists and epidemiologists to Italy. Russia also sent coronavirus testing kits to Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, as well as to former USSR republics such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Russia has also sent military doctors and virology and epidemiology specialists to Serbia.

China also stepped up to the plate. It sent coronavirus testing kits as well as ventilators, masks and doctors to Italy; testing kits to Spain; and facemasks to Holland. It also delivered coronavirus testing kits to Palestine, and aid to Cambodia and Malaysia.

Contrary to Stoltenbergs claims then, the most striking feature of the coronavirus crisis is the absence of a NATO contribution to its solution. Pandemics are as old as humanity. Sooner or later, something like Covid-19 was bound to come along. Yet, despite all of the resources NATO had eaten up over the years, it has undertaken no emergency planning for a possible pandemic or a biological weapon attack. Its military hardware, vaunted command structures and constant military exercises are as useless today as they were in 2015 when Europe faced its last serious crisis.

Of course, it was NATO itself that triggered the 2015 migration crisis. Its reckless intervention to overthrow the government of Libyas Muammar al-Qaddafi threw the previously stable North African country into chaos and caused the massive flow of migrants into Europe. The same sequence followed the subsequent intervention of key NATO powers in the civil war in Syria.

In 2015, Europeans woke up to discover not only that their most urgent security problem was not Russia, Ukraine and Crimea (NATOs obsessive concern), but Europes open borders, a problem NATO had done nothing to address and, worse, had exacerbated by fueling instability on Europes periphery. Yet NATO offered no explanation as to why Europes borders had remained so porous for decades. Similarly, in the face of a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe in 2015, NATO was unable to explain why, after supposedly fighting terrorism for the better part of two decades, it had done so little to safeguard Europe from the scourge of terrorism.

In a speech delivered in Wellington, New Zealand, on Aug. 5, 2019, a few months before the Covid-19 outbreak, Stoltenberg declared that the greatest challenge the West faced was increased competition between great powers and that a more assertive Russia, is putting the rules based order under pressure. Russia was everywhere, threatening everyone, trying to meddle in and undermining the trust in democratic institutions. And then there was the rise of China. China and Russia, Stoltenberg warned, represent challenges for all of us, both NATO Allies andmany other countries.

So there it is. A few months before the onset of a global pandemic, the full ramifications of which we can today barely grasp, NATO was expressing alarm about Russia and China, the two powers that have done far more to help NATO countries out during this pandemic than NATO itself has.

Meanwhile, Europe and the United States careen toward an economic catastrophe that will dwarf the 2008 crisis by several orders of magnitude. NATOs contribution to solving that crisis will be as useless as its contribution to solving the 2008 crisis. What will it be? It will plead with member-states not to skimp on their contributions to a security organization from which they derive no security.

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NATOs nemeses Russia & China help its member-states amid Covid-19 pandemic FAR MORE than the alliance itself - RT

Estonia’s far-right EKRE MPs vote against a statement supporting the EU and NATO – Estonian World

The Estonian Conservative Peoples Party (EKRE) MPs voted against the parliament foreign affairs committees statement in support of the unity of the EU and NATO.

In the light of the current crisis, members of the Estonian parliaments (Riigikogu) foreign affairs committee on 2 April adopted a statement in support of the unity of the European Union and NATO and the solidarity between the member states.

While the MPs of the prime ministers party, the Centre Party, as well as the opposition MPs from the Reform Party and Social Democrats all voted in support of the statement, the committees two MPs of the far-right EKRE, Ruuben Kaalep and Anti Poolamets, voted against. Out of the two MPs of Isamaa party, also in the government, one (Mihhail Lotman) also voted in favour, while the other one (Raivo Tamm) abstained.

For Estonia, the membership in the European Union and NATO has been invaluable for both security and economic development. Protection of the value space of the West has to be the priority of the allies today. Protection of dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the principle of the rule of law and human rights is essential. The EU must jointly resist all attempts to use a state of emergency to restrict the freedoms and the rights of its citizens, the statement says.

Since its accession, Estonia has been a reliable and constructive member state and cooperation partner of the European Union and NATO, and we wish to be that also in the future. The present challenge is complicated for all our partners and allies, but when we rely on strong trans-Atlantic relations, the hardships can be overcome faster through common efforts and coordinated cooperation, the statement EKRE refused to back, also says.

Kaalep and Poolamets declined to comment, when asked by Estonian World.

EKRE is a radical, far-right and populist party that first entered the Estonian parliament in 2015, winning seven seats. In the 2019 election, the party more than doubled its seats and currently has 19 MPs. The party was subsequently invited to form the current government with the populist-leaning Centre Party and the centre-right Isamaa. The partys leading figures have over the years stood out for their use of xenophobic, racist and homophobic rhetoric.

Cover: Ruuben Kaalep and Anti Poolamets (Riigikogu).

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Estonia's far-right EKRE MPs vote against a statement supporting the EU and NATO - Estonian World

NATO reflection process: Secretary General’s first meeting with the group of experts – NATO HQ

Today (08 April 2020), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held his first meeting with the group of experts supporting his work on a reflection process to further strengthen NATOs political dimension. The meeting, held by video-conference, was an opportunity for the Secretary General and the experts to exchange initial views on their work for the coming weeks and months. The group, co-chaired by Thomas de Maizire and Wess Mitchell, is scheduled to meet by video-conference with the North Atlantic Council on 22 April 2020.

In the meeting, the Secretary General stressed that NATO is strong, it adapts to the changing security environment and delivers on its military responsibilities. The reflection process is about making NATO even stronger and enhance its ability to deal with current and future challenges.

Following the decision by NATO leaders last December to initiate a forward-looking reflection process, the Secretary General appointed the 10 members of the group on 31 March 2020. Five women and five men will work under the auspices of the Secretary General and offer recommendations to reinforce Alliance unity, increase political consultation and coordination between Allies, and strengthen NATOs political role.

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NATO reflection process: Secretary General's first meeting with the group of experts - NATO HQ

NATO reflection process: SG’s first meeting with the group of experts – NATO HQ

Today (08 April 2020), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held his first meeting with the group of experts supporting his work on a reflection process to further strengthen NATOs political dimension. The meeting, held by video-conference, was an opportunity for the Secretary General and the experts to exchange initial views on their work for the coming weeks and months. The group, co-chaired by Thomas de Maizire and Wess Mitchell, is scheduled to meet by video-conference with the North Atlantic Council on 22 April 2020.

In the meeting, the Secretary General stressed that NATO is strong, it adapts to the changing security environment and delivers on its military responsibilities. The reflection process is about making NATO even stronger and enhance its ability to deal with current and future challenges.

Following the decision by NATO leaders last December to initiate a forward-looking reflection process, the Secretary General appointed the 10 members of the group on 31 March 2020. Five women and five men will work under the auspices of the Secretary General and offer recommendations to reinforce Alliance unity, increase political consultation and coordination between Allies, and strengthen NATOs political role.

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NATO reflection process: SG's first meeting with the group of experts - NATO HQ

It’s time to consider an enhanced role for NATO to combat pandemics | TheHill – The Hill

In 2019 when the U.S. remained the worlds largest defense spender, governments of the EU member states increased their defense spending to reach the 2 percent GDP NATO contribution target. The U.S. government built a wall across its southern border to improve American security; meanwhile, EU member states increased the number and budget of border patrols like FRONTEX to protect their borders from refugees and mass immigration flows, which seem a threat to their security. However, neither the U.S. nor the EU were well prepared to protect their citizens from one of the most dangerous and deadly security threats, one that does not recognize any border: pandemics.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 reminds us that a pandemic can kill as many people as a war. Moreover, COVID-19 also demonstrates that it can severely harm the economy and has the potential to change the current international economic system. Furthermore, COVID-19 indicates that there is an urgent need for solidarity among NATO allies to battle against the outbreak.

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic but pandemics were not accepted as a security threat and were not included in security strategy documents until the early 2000s, only viewed as a national security issue following the H5N1 and H1N1 outbreaks in 2005 and 2009. The 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy stated that pandemics like HIV (AIDS), H5N1 (avian influenza) do not recognize borders and should be dealt with through new strategies and responses. Like the U.S., the EU included pandemics as public health threats under the section entitled Security and Development Nexus in the 2008 Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy, stating that pandemics further undermine development.

Both the U.S. and the EU and its member states that define pandemics as a security threat aim to protect their citizens and try to take measures at national, federal and union levels. Contrary to these national security strategy documents, NATOs 2010 strategic concept, an official policy document outlining purpose and fundamental NATO security tasks, does not mention pandemic.

NATO reconsidered its planning and operations to deal with new security threats. Accordingly, the head of states underlined key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water scarcity and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations at the Wales Summit Declaration of NATO in 2014.

A couple of months ago at the NATO London Summit, leaders and heads of state stated that we are stepping up NATOs role in human security. The concept of human security, which was first introduced in the United Nations Development Programs 1994 Human Development Report, emphasizes the necessity of focusing on the protection of individuals from economic, environmental, social, and other forms of harm, including pandemics. Pandemics, which transcend national frontiers and are described as a global challenge, cannot be handled by state-centered traditional security understanding. Like other global challenges, a pandemic necessitates a global response.

Among other NATO allies, Italy has been hit worst by the outbreak and pleaded for help. China, Russia and Cuba responded very quickly to Italys request. China sent ventilators, face masks, doctors and nurses to Italy to help its battle against COVID-19. Russia sent military doctors, specialists on epidemics and equipment. Cuban doctors and nurses also travelled to Italy in order to help. This not only shows the necessity of international cooperation and enhanced partnerships with other actors and organizations when needed (as stated at the Strategic Concept of NATO) but also the need for an enhanced role for NATO to help its allies combat pandemics.

NATO is not unfamiliar with relief operations and humanitarian assistance. It took an active role in relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005) and an earthquake in Pakistan (2005). NATOs Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC) providing medical, logistical and food supplies to the U.S. after Katrina. NATO also provided food, medical care, and deployed engineers, medical units to assist in relief operations after the earthquake in Pakistan.

In the London Declaration of 2019, leaders and heads of states reiterated that NATO guarantees the security of its member states territory, citizens and common values, emphasizing the cornerstone of alliance: solidarity, unity and cohesion.

It is time to show this solidarity with NATO allies struggling with the COVID-19 outbreak. It is time to enhance NATO's role in the fight against pandemics.

Aylin Unver Noi is a senior fellow at the Transatlantic Leadership Network and an associate professor on international relations at Istinye University in Istanbul.

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It's time to consider an enhanced role for NATO to combat pandemics | TheHill - The Hill

NATO Highlights Role of 3D Printing as Part of COVID 19 Response – Second Line of Defense

NATO Allies have joined efforts with private companies and academic institutions in the fight against the global pandemic of the Coronavirus. These efforts include making 3D printing available to produce ventilator masks, which represent a crucial component of the medical equipment required to treat patients hit by the Coronavirus.

In Italy, a team of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) located in Taranto has established a cooperation with an Italian start-up called ISINNOVA that will result in the production of 25 3D-printed connectors on a weekly basis converting snorkelling masks into emergency ventilator masks. These will be donated to the Italian Civil Protection Department for further distribution in the most needed hospitals.

The Czech Republic has also distributed samples of newly developed hi-tech respirators printable on 3D printers to Italy, together with 10,000 pieces of protective suits. This has been made possible by the cooperation amongst different entities, including the Polytechnic Institutes of Milan and Prague.

This article was published by NATO on April 2, 2020.

Featured Photo:Hospital patient testing the snorkelling mask. Credits: FabFactory

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NATO Highlights Role of 3D Printing as Part of COVID 19 Response - Second Line of Defense

U.S. committed to Ukraine and Georgia to become future members of NATO – UNIAN

The Alliance pursues an open door policy.

REUTERS

"We are committed to all of those countries to become the future members of NATO. We want all of them," Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, said during a LiveAtState briefing on April 1, 2020, when asked what the enlargement of the Alliance after North Macedonia became its 30th member means for aspirant countries like Georgia, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Read alsoNATO Allies take stock of response to COVID-19 outbreak

"And we have been to Georgia, we have been to Ukraine. We want their reforms to come forward so that they can prevail over the Russian misinformation and actual border-enforcing of parts of their countries Georgia and Ukraine," she said.

"Russia must let those countries have their sovereign rule, their sovereign territory, their boundaries, and we are very intent on helping Georgia and Ukraine continue to respond to the Russian aggression that has taken over parts of their countries. And we are not going to let down on those efforts," she added.

She also reiterates the Alliance adheres to an open door policy, and North Macedonia's case proves the effectiveness of the policy.

Hutchison stressed that assistance was being provided to Ukraine and Georgia, and a support package for Ukraine and Georgia would be discussed at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on April 2.

"So we have an open door. I think that's what the accession of North Macedonia shows. And we are helping our partners, Georgia and Ukraine. We are giving them a package that will be discussed tomorrow at the foreign ministerial. I believe the foreign ministers will approve a package that continues to build on our support and help for Georgia and Ukraine," she said.

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U.S. committed to Ukraine and Georgia to become future members of NATO - UNIAN

Greece and Turkey enter war of words at NATO meeting – AMN Al-Masdar News

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:00 P.M.) On Friday, April 3rd, the foreign ministers of the NATO nations held a teleconference to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and their contingencies; however, the meeting would apparently turn sour when Greece and Turkey traded accusations over Ankaras decision to open their European border to migrants, the Russian newspaper Gazeta.RU reported.

According to the publication, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu left the virtual meeting earlier than all the other participants after disputes with Greece over migrants.

The diplomat recalled that an agreement was concluded between Ankara and the European Union in 2016, which obliged Turkey to accept about four million refugees from Syria and other countries of the Middle East, and not allow them to go to Europe.

In exchange for this, the EU promised to provide Turkey with assistance in the amount of 6 billion and provide other incentives, such as a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens. Cavusoglu stressed that the EU has not fulfilled its part of the deal.

We advise them to think about the long term, because it is not just a matter of migration, he said, demanding from Europe liberalization of the visa regime, updating the agreement on the customs union and strengthening the fight against terrorism.

Not long after this, Cavusoglu accused Greece of killing migrants trying to cross the common border of countries.

In response, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said that Ankaras claims are specially organized propaganda for political purposes and have fake news.

Greece faced an organized and unprecedented attack on its border and a disinformation campaign from Turkey. The methods used by Turkey violated the values of NATO. All allies have the right to call for NATO solidarity, but only if they fulfill their obligations, the Greek diplomat emphasized, as quoted by Gazeta.RU.

Cavusoglu demanded to give him the opportunity to answer, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stopped this attempt, so as not to contribute to inciting scandal online.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, in response, disconnected from the conference.

Turkish and Greek relations are at a decade-long low, as disagreements over the movement of migrants and Ankaras oil exploration off the coast of Cyprus has put the two countries at odds.

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Greece and Turkey enter war of words at NATO meeting - AMN Al-Masdar News

NATO Gets Positive News for Theaters in $2.2 Trillion Senate Aid Package – IndieWire

At a singular time when just about every stateside movie theater is closed (aside from a few drive-ins), the organization that represents the global major theater chains as well as mom and pop cinemassome 33,000 screens across North America is celebrating the Senates massive nationwide financial package to stem the economic crisis, which passed Wednesday night. The bill will go to the House, where approval is expected, and then to President Trump, who has said he will sign it right away.

The National Association of Theaters is applauding the passage of the bipartisan $2.2 trillion aid package meant to ease immediate economic burdens across the country. Per their press release, theaters can look forward with confidence to reopening and once again serving their communities when this crisis has passed.

Among the items that NATO is cheering:

The loan guarantee fund of $454 billion meant to allow movie theaters, similar to other businesses, to get loan guarantees to cover fixed costs while normal revenue flow is interrupted;

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the expansion of programs by the Small Business Agency for similar access to loans, in some cases raising the possibility of loan forgiveness;

specific tax relief provisions including deferring payroll tax payment, provisions for loss carry backs for businesses among other revised rules;

credits for businesses that retain employees on their payrolls;

a maximum of four months of aid to workers through extended and expanded unemployment insurance;

advanced deductions to employees, immediately payable.

For NATO, final passage (the Senate vote was 96-0) brings a much-needed financial boost to theaters, providing confidence that they will be able to weather the storm and reopen at the appropriate time. NATO is grateful to all those who have allied with them in working to support an industry central to our cultural and civic life.

Any return to normalcy is still far away, with many decisions in the hands of the studios that supply the product that theaters will need to show. But in a week where the stocks of major exhibitors have been particularly hard hit, passage of the aid package is positive news to the industry as a needed first step.

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Coronavirus crisis: Allied planes carrying supplies arrive in Slovakia, head to Romania – NATO HQ

A planeload of medical supplies, including masks, has arrived in Slovakia on Wednesday (25 March 2020) to help with the coronavirus crisis.

The Antonov AN-124 plane landed around 14.30 local time at Bratislava airport with 48 tons of medical material. The cargo aircraft is part of the Strategic Airlift International Solution or SALIS programme, which is managed by NATO. The supplies, included facemasks, surgical gloves and protective suits arrived from Tianjin in China.

A further 45 tons of medical equipment, including 100,000 protective suits, are set to arrive in Bucharest on Thursday (26 March 2020) from the Republic of Korea. The equipment has been procured by the Romanian government as part of the efforts to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The supplies will be delivered with a C-17 Globemaster aircraft which is part of NATOs Strategic Airlift Capability.

NATO oversees two strategic airlift programmes. As part of NATOs Strategic Airlift Capability or SAC, Allies jointly own and operate three C-17 Globemaster heavy cargo aircraft, sharing flying hours and costs. Allies also charter several Antonov transport aircraft under the Alliances Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) program. These programmes routinely moved personnel and supplies from Europe to NATO bases in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti and Pakistan.

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Coronavirus crisis: Allied planes carrying supplies arrive in Slovakia, head to Romania - NATO HQ

Allied airlift brings urgent medical supplies to the Czech Republic – NATO HQ

A cargo plane carrying several tons of medical supplies from China, including vital respirators and millions of facemasks, landed at Pardubice airport on Tuesday night (24-25 March 2020) to help combat the coronavirus.

The AN-124 plane, one of the largest aircraft ever built, landed overnight in the city of Pardubice. The flight was made possible by the NATO-managed Strategic Airlift International Solution, which provides NATO countries participating in the programme with access to heavy transport aircraft. The Czech Government had tasked the mission.

The plane flew from the city of Shenzhen in China with over 100 tons of equipment, including millions of facemasks, goggles and protective suits. This was the second such flight to the Czech Republic. Further flights to the Czech Republic and Slovakia are planned in the coming days, bringing much needed medical supplies. Special procedures were in place to ensure the safety of the aircrew, with no direct contact with ground crews allowed.

The Strategic Airlift International Solution, or SALIS, provides NATO countries with a strategic air transport capability. Nine NATO Allies (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) currently participate in the programme, managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. The aircraft is operated by Antonov Logistics SALIS from Leipzig/Halle airport.

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Allied airlift brings urgent medical supplies to the Czech Republic - NATO HQ