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NATO Chief: Pandemic Won't Hamper Alliance's Capabilities

FILE - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to reporters in Hamburg, Germany, Jan. 17, 2020.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic had not diminished the alliance's ability to carry out its missions and keep allies secure.

At a news briefing carried via video-conference from Brussels, Stoltenberg said NATO was doing its part to airlift necessary emergency medical equipment, and he noted that a military cargo aircraft left Turkey earlier Wednesday with protective gear and other medical equipment for Spain and Italy.

Stoltenberg also said NATO’s “core task” is to provide security for nearly 1 billion people, so the immediate primary objective is to “make sure a health crisis does not become a security crisis.”

Stoltenberg said recent Russian war games in western Russia near NATO ally borders were a stark reminder that the alliance cannot lose its focus on defending Europe.

NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Thursday, also via video-conference.