this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers around the world. the number of coronavirus related deaths worldwide have surpassed 100,000 that's according to thejohns hopkins university. the british public is being urged to stay interest this weekend after the highest daily death toll so far in the coronavirus pandemic. after weeks of criticism over a shortage of personal protection equipment, the british government is insisting there is now enough if used correctly. new york has started to bury some of its debt in mass graves, the state now has more coronavirus cases than any single country outside the united states.
now i'm bbc news, hard talk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. the coronavirus pandemic is a multi—layered global crisis. it starts with public health, of course, but it reaches deep into the world economy and the global security system, too. could fears of covid—19 be used for malign purposes? will this crisis undermine or enhance multilateral institutions? well, my guest today is the secretary general of nato, jens stoltenberg. has nato risen to the coronavirus challenge?
jens stoltenberg, welcome to hardtalk. thank you so much for having me. let me ask you this — how is the coronavirus crisis, the pandemic across the world, affecting nato‘s ability to carry out its mission? the reality is that nato is carrying out its mission as we did before the crisis. of course, we have made some adjustments. we have to also take — take into our organisation
the consequences of the coronavirus crisis but fundamentally, we continue to provide the terrorism defence, we maintain our operational readiness, we maintain the forces deployable, the high readiness forces, the combat groups in the eastern part of the alliance and missions and operations fighting international terrorism, so nato‘s main responsibility in this crisis is to make sure that this health crisis doesn't become a security crisis and therefore, nato continues to maintain credible deterrents and defence. right. that message of business as usual, though — surely it doesn't tally with the facts. i'm looking at the fact, for example, that a major training exercise that you had planned — i believe you were calling it defender 2020, it has effectively been ruined by the impact of coronavirus and, in particular, the fact that us forces have been issued with an order not to take part and, indeed, not to move.
so we have adjusted the way that we work, so we have adapted some exercises, we have cancelled some exercises, we have reduced the people working in the nato headquarters, but that doesn't undermine our ability to maintain what we call our operational readiness, meaning our ability to deploy forces if needed. we maintain, as i said, our battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance and our missions and operations, air policing our naval deployments... crosstalk. but with respect, secretary general, that can't be the case. i mean, you have had to cancel a very important exercise which was supposed to involve 37,000 troops, you've have troops come up positive in tests for coronavirus in lithuania, you've got a big problem in afghanistan, where service members of the nato force have also tested positive and many others have been confined to barracks. you can't pretend to me that this is normal. it most definitely isn't and your capacities have been undermined. no, it is not normal, and i'm not saying that anything —
nothing has changed. actually, we have changed a lot the way we do our work. but what i'm saying is that despite the crisis, despite that we have changed the way we work, we're actually able to deliver our core task, and that's credible deterrence and defence, all in the midst of a crisis. actually, nato is a readiness organisation. nato is created to cope with crisis and therefore, we are also coping with this crisis, knowing that we have to adapt, change when we are faced with a crisis, as the corona crisis. what do you think potential enemies of nato‘s member states make of a situation where, for example, the very famous american aircraft carrier theodore roosevelt is effectively taken out of action because coronavirus has spread to the crew on board, the captain calls for emergency help
and is then fired by the pentagon for breaking the rules? it looks as though your most important member state and its military have been crippled by fears of coronavirus. as i said, i'm not saying this doesn't have any consequences at all. i'm saying that nato is able to maintain its readiness, our high readiness forces, oui’ response forces, nato missions and operations, air policing, naval deployments and all that. the us aircraft carrier is actually not part of the nato responsibilities i'm talking about, so i will not comment specifically on that, but i'm only saying that we have worked for years to make sure that nato will function also in different kinds of crisis and therefore, i'm glad to see that we are able to deliver on our core task but... crosstalk. ..of course adjusting the way we will do it. you keep telling me about this core task and how it is being maintained.
how do you think the afghans — both military leaders, political leaders and ordinary people in afghanistan — feel about this multinational operation on their soil — that is, the nato and us operation on their soil — when members of the international military are bringing coronavirus with them into their country? doesn't it undermine, again, undermine the confidence people will have in hosting nato forces on their territory? the coronavirus affects us all. all countries, all institutions, all organisations and, of course, it does affects nato. and, of course, there are people in nato, nato missions and operations, who are infected and many of them are in quarantine. that was already — that has actually been implemented a precautionary measure. but i know that the people in afghanistan, the government of afghanistan, they very much welcome that nato maintain its mission in afghanistan. we are there to help to fight international terrorism, we are there to send a clear message to taliban that they will not win on the battlefield and we continue to be there, so yes,
we have adjusted the way we do ourjob but yes, we continue to be in afghanistan, help to fight international terrorism. do you agree with the analyst christopher skaluba, who works at the atlantic council — an expert in nato affairs — who says that after this is all over, there needs to be some really serious thinking about how, in his words, "pandemics can, within weeks, degrade military operations and fragment unity among the closest of allies?" do you agree with him? some serious thinking needs to be done about that. i think that after any crisis or every crisis, we need to draw some lessons and adapt and change the way we do operations and our missions. and that will, of course, also be the case after the corona crisis. i think that not only nato but also nato allies more in general have to look into, for instance, the issue of stocks,
medical equipment, protective suits and all of those things which have proven in scarce or lack of in this crisis, so i think stocks of necessary equipment, but also whether we need to produce more of it inside our own countries are among the issues that has to be addressed after we have passed this corona crisis. how embarrassing has it been, did you believe, that within nato member states there has been a great deal of propaganda benefit coming to russia and china, who have sent supplies to nato member states — supplies that they apparently couldn't get from fellow members of your organisation? how embarrassing is that? well, what we see now is that nato allies, despite this crisis, are providing significant support to each other.
we have seen how nato have used its capabilities to lift — or airlift equipment around the globe to support the nato allies, and our also nato allies are providing support to each other. crosstalk. with respect, secretary general, that's not really what we've seen. i'm looking at one extraordinary french radio report from april 2nd which is headlined "face masks from china intended for france were hijacked by the united states who, at the last minute, jumped into a deal between france and china, offering a much higher price to the chinese to get tens of thousands of face masks — millions of face masks". i mean, france and the us are supposed to be nato partners. what on earth is going on? but first of all, i think you we'd better distinguish between the fact that nato allies are actually providing help to each other and the amount of help that has been provided from nato allies to nato allies is much bigger than the help that has come from china or russia. but again, this is not a competition about who can provide the most help.
this is a global crisis that requires a global response and we need to help each other. second, we have seen several reports... well, let me — ok, i see your point, let me ask you just a very blunt question. do you think the people of, let's say, italy and spain, where the coronavirus impact has hit very hard, do you think that they feel they have received sufficient support from fellow nato member states? normally when we have a natural disaster or crisis, only a limited number of countries are affected and then, the others can provide help to those affected. now everyone is affected and that makes the whole situation more difficult because not all allies have, not all countries have spare capacity. and that's exactly the reason why i really think that one of the lessons we really have to look into after this crisis is the availability of masks, protective suits and so on.
but that's in a way a lesson we have to look into after we have addressed the most immediate crisis. you and i have talked in the past about your concerns about cyber warfare coming from different sources, but you've mentioned russia and china in the past. there was an eu report issued just a couple of weeks ago, talking about a significant disinformation campaign by russian state media and pro—kremlin outlets regarding the covid—19 crisis in europe. what are you, in nato, as protectors of europe from cyber warfare and that kind of damaging propaganda, what are you doing? are you seeing it and what are you doing about it? so we see attempts to do, as i say, do disinformation and the propaganda. at the same time, we would like to highlight that this is a global crisis, we need to mobilise global unity in fighting the coronavirus. but, of course, we are vigilant, we are responding when we see disinformation. i believe the best answer to propaganda is not propaganda, but the best answer to propaganda is the truth.
and we provide facts, we are open and transparent, but i think the most important tool we have in fighting disinformation and propaganda is a free and independent press. it's journalists asking difficult questions, asking for a response or checking their sources so news, i should say, institutions like the bbc and all other free and independent media are playing a key role in making sure that we are not victims of propaganda. right. now you tell me that the world needs to find unity — global unity, you've said, several times during this interview. what did you make of the fact that the leader of by far the most important nato member state, the united states — and of course, i'm talking about president donald trump — refers to the coronavirus as, his phrase, ‘the chinese virus‘, claims that china has deliberately withheld information to damage the united states,
and is now attacking the world health organisation, claiming that it is china—centric. my main responsibility is to make sure that the nato allies stand together and help the civilian society, the healthcare services, to cope with these crises, provide help and support to them and that's exactly what we do. i willjust undermined my task of keeping these alliances together if i start to comment on each and every leader. what i know is that — is that nato allies agreed a statement last week at our foreign ministerial meeting, where we addressed this as a global challenge. we called on unity in facing this global challenge, and we refer to it as covid—19, a global challenge to all of us. so that's agreed language among 29 — and now actually 30 —
nato allies and that's what i am working — my work is based on. but my point is that you are part of a multilateral organisation. you want to see global unity. i'm asking you as a significant world figure, what you make of a us president who is currently attacking the world health organization, accusing it of being china—centric, and going further and suggesting that china has malign intentions. i won't undermine my position keeping 30 allies together. if i start commenting on the world health organization and different views about the roles that the world health organization is playing. my most urgent task now is to make sure we are mobilised and give support to allies as much as possible and we see that military personnel are actually paying a key role in the fight against coronavirus. they are doing everything
from controlling border crossings, disinfecting spaces, setting up field hospitals and providing military and medical support. so... i don't mean to belittle... significant support in a critical situation... all about... understood and all of that is important, i don't mean to belittle it, but i wonder what you make of what the un secretary general, antonio guterres, said to us on hardtalkjust a few days ago, he said that" international cooperation has never been this low a level before in the midst of a crisis." he is deeply concerned. are you? i am deeply concerned, first of all about the consequences of the crisis and the fact it affects all countries all around the world means that there is less capacity to provide support, this is the brute reality because we feel most responsible for their own populations...
with respect, he is pointing to something deeper, suggesting that there is across the world amongst the big powers, a trend towards quite blatant nationalism, self interest that is hampering efforts to develop a truly internationally co—ordinated response. do you see that too? i see that some international institutions are in a difficult position and that i have seen some reduced support for international cooperation. since i am the secretary general of nato, i have done everything i can that nato as a national institution has adapted is strong and is possible to deliver. a quick thought that is very relative into the future of nato. economists are saying that such is the impact of the economic deep—freeze as a result
of coronavirus lockdowns that they will see contractions of national economies of between 5— 20% in this current year. that is disastrous. it means deficits and national debts are going to thaw right around the world. do you now acknowledge that it is impossible to imagine that all of these countries in nato who committed to meet the 2% spending pledge, they are in no way going to be able to meet those pledges in the next few years. do you accept that? i accept that the coronavirus, the covid—19 crisis, will have economic consequences. how big those consequences will be of course depends on how long this will last but potentially severe economic consequences, especially for those who do not have so much from the beginning. so, so, so of course, the, the current crisis always have a social profile that is and also in trouble from the beginning, they are always
suffering more than those who have more. but let's, let's be direct about this. there is no way that countries like italy and spain will meet the 2% threshold and the expert at the atlantic council said that what has happened in recent weeks is going to happen over the next few months could well sound the death knell to those nato military spending commitments. donald trump says that if he does not get those commitments, nato is obsolete, leaving you with a huge problem. the challenging dilemma we are faced with is that, yes, there will be economic consequences of the coronavirus but, at the same time, the threats and challenges that have made us invest or decide to invest in defence have not disappeared. we are still faced with terrorist threats, threats in cyberspace, we still see threats from russia and all these threats and challenges remain there despite the corona crisis.
sure but governments simply will not have the money. they will not have the money! on top of that, the armed forces, actually provides a search capacity for nations to deal with disastrous crisis such as corona crisis. when you look around across the nato alliance, we see that investments in the military actually now provide a lot of capabilities which are used in fighting civilian health crises and it means that military investment is not only a response to military threats but also for instance health crises, as a corona crisis has shown. we must end soon, a couple are specific challenges and i want your thoughts on them. afghanistan, it is a terrible mess right now. the americans have done a deal with the taliban supposed to be drawing down troops and as a result you and nato are supposed to be drawing down your troop numbers as well too,
in fact withdrawal in 1a months, but we are already seeing this peace dealfalling apart. there has been a fundamental disagreement with prisoner releases, both sides blaming the other, and america saying they mayjust abandon the deal and pull out unilaterally. it leaves you in nato in extraordinarily difficult position. what will you do? it is a very difficult situation as it has been for a long time. this is the reason why we have decided to reduce our military presence from 16,000 troops to 12,000 nato troops. we have also said that any further reduction has to be based on conditions and so we will only reduce our presence if we see if the taliban delivers on the commitment to the peace deal. what if the americans unilaterally pull their troops out, as mike pence said that they may do just the other day? the united states have also made it clear as a nato ally
that this is conditions—based. it would be bad for us if we allow afghanistan, once again, to become a safe haven for international terrorists. do you think the american policy, which changes from day—to—day, is irresponsible? they have consulted with nato allies to reach an agreement with the taliban and the only way out of the crisis in afghanistan is to have an afghan—led and afghan—owned political process and the main outcome of the agreement between the united states and the taliban, which is supported by nato is to facilitate and into afghan negotiation. it is not easy. it is a hard and long way to peace in afghanistan but the only way to reach that peace is by making sure that afghans are taking responsibility for the peace process themselves. that is the main purpose of the agreement between the us and taliban.
a question on turkey. as you well know, they are about to make operational the very sophisticated russian defence system, the s—400 system, against the wishes of the united states and i imagine against your hopes and wishes as well. should turkey, a member state of nato, be punished for making this defence system operational? turkey is an important ally. they have been extremely important, especially against daesh and in syria. should turkey face sanctions, simple question? i realise that it is recognised by all in nato that the turkish decision invest in the russian system s—400 creates problems within the alliance and i express my concerns over the consequences of this turkish decision.
i welcome these ongoing efforts to try to solve it. i spoke to the president recently about it and all the allies about this issue and we continue to try and find the way to address the issue because the s—400 system will never be part of an integrated nato air and missile system and that's one of the challenges we are facing. a final thought, mr secretary general, a quote from elisabeth braw, from rusi‘s modern deterrance project, thinking carefully about their future. she writes this: "covid—19 is the worst national security crisis to hit any of its member states since the alliance was founded. is this going to be the moment for nato to reassert its enteral relevance? " is it? yes or no? yes. i think the crisis proves the importance of countries working together and having structures in place, as nato has, to mobilise and help civilian
society and fight a health crisis and make sure that this health crisis does not become a serious security crisis and that's exactly what nato is doing. let me add, i would like to commend all those people on the front line. it is first and foremost health workers but also military personnel, who are every day fighting this crisis, helping people, to cope with a very difficult situation for all of us. jens stoltenberg, thank you forjoining us me on hardtalk from brussels and stay healthy. thank you so much. thank you.
hello, good evening with temperatures close to 25 degrees it has been the warmest day of the year so far. we have not been able to get out and enjoy it as we normally might ona out and enjoy it as we normally might on a good friday. not bad if you have got a parasol in the garden. this is the satellite picture, you can see a lot of clear sky across the uk. this stripe of cloud towards the northwest and one or two shower clouds thatjust p°pped or two shower clouds thatjust normed up or two shower clouds thatjust popped up across parts of wales to the afternoon. those showers continued to drift northeast may be the odd thunderstorm across parts of the odd thunderstorm across parts of the night in england and setting scotland. my cloud forest got into the night and some outbreaks of patchy rain, clear skies further south. one way two places in the south. one way two places in the south and east of england may be getting down to around 4 degrees. most patient is having a mild night or mild start to tomorrow. penty my sunshine across england and wales, since i may be training hazy at times as in areas of high cloud but a cloudy start for scotland and northern ireland and a brightens up and we see some more cloud and the odd spot of rain into the northern
and western aisles. he will also turn breezy and rather cool, 9 degrees is below. further south, very warm. 25 by 20 6 degrees and without warmth we could just see the odd afternoon shower or thunderstorm. some of those do wales, midlands, east anglia, lincolnshire will continue into the evening. by sunday i think again across england and wales we will see one or two showers breaking up. perhaps one or two more showers by this stage. rain trying to push him from the west and noisily when developing across scotland and northern ireland and that is going to make it feel considerably cooler here further south you are still warm, 23 degrees in london. but it turns cooler for all of us as we head out sunday into monday. no pressure down to the south, high—pressure risk watching you from the north with the wind around high—pressure in this clockwise direction. that will draw this much colder air down across the uk. it will feel particularly chilly giving the strength of this north,
northeast of the ring. a lot of cloud into northern and eastern scotla nd cloud into northern and eastern scotland and down of england, the best of the sunshine, the further west you are. those are the average wind speed. the gust stronger than that, blustery for some eastern coasts, single—digit temperatures here, the highest temperatures but even here only getting up to 13 degrees.
this is bbc news of the latest headlines from viewers in the uk and around the world. a message to the british public after the uk hi highest death toll in the pandemic. and we all share responsibility to tackle this virus. first and foremost tackle this virus. first and fore m ost by tackle this virus. first and foremost by staying at home. after weeks of criticism of her shortage of personal protection equipment, the british government insists there is enough if used correctly. new york begins to bury their dead and massive grapes, more coronavirus cases than any other country outside the united states.