Nato chief says alliance 'stands in solidarity' with Theresa May over Russia position

Posted On: 
16th March 2018

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said the millitary alliance firmly backs the UK's position that Russia was behind the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

Jens Stoltenberg
PA Images

The former Norwegian prime minister said there was "no reason to doubt" the Government's analysis that Russia had carried out the Salisbury nerve agent attack against former-spy Sergei Skripal.

He said previous Russian behaviour, including the annexation of Crimea, also pointed towards the Kremlin being to blame.

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Mr Stoltenberg's remarks will add further pressure to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who yesterday suggested that "Russian mafia-like groups" could be responsible for the poisoning.

Theresa May told MPs that "there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable" for what happened.

Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, Mr Stoltenberg said: "We have no reason to doubt the findings and the assessments made by the British government, not least because this takes place against a backdrop of a pattern of reckless behaviour by Russia over many years.

"The illegal annexation of Crimea, the continued destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, cyber-attacks and meddling in national elections, and many other activities. This is one element of many.

"We have seen that Russia has been implicated in similar attacks before… we have no reason to doubt the information and findings from the British government."

Mr Stoltenberg added that the UK's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and target the assets of oligarchs living in Britain believed to be involved in espionage was the correct response to the attack.

“We support the actions taken by the British government, it is important that Russia has consequences, costs to pay for the way they behave," he said.

"All Nato allies express a political support for the UK. The United Kingdom is not alone; all allies stand in solidarity with the UK.”

But he warned against triggering of a new Cold War, insisting that a "dual-track approach" was the correct stance in relations with the Russian state.

“We have a dual track approach to Russia. It is about strength, deterrence, defence but it’s also about political dialogue because we don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race.

"Russia is our neighbour so therefore we have to continue to strive for improved, better relationship with Russia.”

Mr Stoltenberg said that while Russia had underestimated the "resolve and unity" of Nato allies there would be no new additions to the four battle groups already deployed to the eastern part of the alliance following the annexation of Crimea.

"What we are doing is increasing the ability to reinforce, to send in more troops quickly if needed. We have tripled the size of the Nato response force, we have established the high readiness brigade, which can be deployed in a number of days."