NATO

NATO Military Chiefs Hold Their First Ever Virtual Meeting

The heads of defence used videolink to discuss current challenges, and how the alliance has responded to COVID-19.

NATO defence chiefs have taken part in their first ever virtual meeting together.

The threat from Russian disinformation, as well as the alliance’s assistance to civil authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, were discussed over secure video link.

The digital nature of the 103rd Chief of Defence session proved, it said, that the alliance has the means to respond to challenging security environments.

Another significant feature of the meeting was the presence of newest member North Macedonia, for the first time.

Afterwards, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, NATO Military Committee Chairman, held a virtual press conference, in which he said NATO’s operations would not be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the defence chiefs had spoken at length about NATO’s COVID-19 response, which has already facilitated 150 missions across Europe.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said NATO air policing would not be affected by the coronavirus pandemic (Picture: RAF).

The former Chief of the Defence Staff outlined some of the work NATO has done during the pandemic.

"To support and transport medical personnel, supplies and treatment capabilities, the construction of more than 50 field hospitals and alternate care facilities, and the addition of more than 35,000 treatment beds, supported by the deployment of 5,000 military medical personnel in support of civil authorities," he said.

"Numerous international aeromedical evacuations with critical care teams, and more than three-and-a-half thousand Allied citizens have repatriated from around the world."

Air Chief Marshal Peach admitted, however, the coronavirus pandemic makes these challenging times for the alliance.

"Together we endure, persevere and overcome," he said.

"In these troubled times, it is more important than ever, that NATO remains ready and able as potential adversaries look to exploit the ongoing crisis to further their interests."

These adversaries include Russia, who he said continue to push misinformation, while increasing its military activity.

In recent weeks, he said, the Baltic Air Policing Mission has been busy intercepting Russian aircraft.

Still, the chiefs agreed the pandemic would not affect their commitment to collective defence or ongoing operations.

This includes, Air Chief Marshal Peach said: "Our multinational battlegroups in the east of the alliance, NATO air policing, our maritime deployments and our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo.

"We’ve implemented special measures to ensure the health and security of all of our personnel."

Those present in the meeting also talked about resilience, and how NATO could better prepare for any future health crisis.