Over 170 Assembly members and their staff joined a webinar on NATO’s response to COVID-19 and the lessons the Alliance is learning from the crisis. Parliamentarians held a lively and in-depth exchange with James Appathurai, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs.
The COVID-19 pandemic remains an unprecedented and multifaceted crisis. “It has affected our health, economy, security, and even our way of life. Even if the Assembly cannot meet in person, it is important that we, parliamentarians, exchange views on this crisis, and our countries’ response to it,” stressed NATO PA Acting President Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary) ahead of the Assembly’s first ever webinar.
“We must build on the many forms of solidarity and cooperation between NATO nations in response to this crisis and, together, start learning the first lessons.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, NATO has focused on two immediate priorities, stressed Mr Appathurai: continuing to guarantee credible collective defense and deterrence and using the full NATO tool box in support of Allies’ COVID-19 response.
While bilateral support between Allies has proven crucial, NATO and NATO-supported tools have also been key, e.g. in helping coordinate assistance, providing strategic airlift to transport medical equipment, speeding up procedures for military relief flights, or coordinating with other international partners, particularly the European Union.
NATO and individual Allies have also stepped up countering disinformation campaigns; are identifying the lessons learnt in terms of national resilience; and are preparing the Alliance for a possible second wave of COVID-19.
In the mid and long term, Mr Appathurai stressed the need to maintain defence spending to address other ongoing threats. “Geopolitics haven’t gone away”, he noted. Allies must also be alert to the potential multiplier effect of the COVID-19 crisis in fragile states and unstable regions in the NATO’s neighbourhood, as well as to China and Russia’s attempts to exploit this crisis to their advantage on the international stage, he argued. Showing the effectiveness of democratic systems in dealing with crises and protecting strategic assets are other key priorities going forward.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Assembly will organise further webinars for members of parliament on the COVID-19 crisis and its effect.
Watch the full webinar: