NATO is prepared to defend alliance member Turkey as Russia engages in a “troubling escalation” in neighboring Syria, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threats,” Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday before a meeting of allied defense ministers in Brussels. He denounced Russia’s violations of Turkish airspace and said support for Turkey will be on the agenda.
The main targets of Russia’s air and cruise-missile strikes are not the Islamic State terrorist group, but members of more moderate forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Stoltenberg said. He called on the Kremlin to fight Islamic State and stop shoring up the Assad regime.
U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said “Russia is making a very serious situation in Syria much more dangerous.” He said NATO will call on Russia to take steps to avoid accidental conflicts in Syria and stop using unguided missiles in areas not controlled by Islamic State.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said: “When Russia attacks those who are fighting the Islamic State, that strengthens the Islamic State.”