NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that Italian troops might be sent near the border with Russia in 2018, as part of a broader mission of the Alliance in the Baltic area. In an interview with newspaper La Stampa, Stoltenberg specified that Italy would contribute to the mission with "one of the four battalions deployed by the Alliance in the Baltic states", adding that the Italian contingent will "head the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VTJF), NATO's spearhead force able to intervene in five days in case of an emergency". Stoltenberg then reassured that "we are not in a Cold War, but there isn't the partnership we have been working on for years either". "We are in a whole new territory, it's a relationship system never seen before", he added.
It is crucial, Stoltenberg also said, to always guarantee "defence and dialogue" and be "firm", in order to commit to "real contacts with Russia, which is our most important neighbour. We can't isolate them in any way, we mustn't even try". However, Stoltenberg added, "we must clearly reaffirm that our mission is to protect all of our allies, that a strong Alliance is necessary not to cause a war, but to prevent it". "Deterrence is key, it is a concept that proved itself valid for almost seventy years", he added.
Russia "has been trying for years to rebuild a system based on spheres of influence in which big powers control their neighbours, in order to limit their sovereignty and independence", Stoltenberg also said. "It is an old fashioned approach, the Yalta system in which big powers split European countries among themselves. We don't want this", he then highlighted. "No-one can violate the sovereignty of single countries", the secretary general concluded.