NATO Top Military Officer Works to Boost Coronavirus Response


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NATO's top military officer said Friday that the 30-member alliance would use its unique ability to respond to crises to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe.

"We will further leverage our expertise and our command and control capabilities to facilitate efforts in the fight against COVID-19, delivering results for NATO allies," said General Tod Wolters, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday tasked Wolters with boosting the alliance's response to COVID-19.

The U.S. general is expected to brief the alliance next week on his efforts, which aim to pinpoint where a "surge" of supplies will be needed next and identify military assets available from member states, Wolters' spokesperson, Army Colonel Juanita Chang, told VOA.

"We're looking to be innovative, and we're trying to stay above the [COVID-19] curve," Chang said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Wolters could improve alliance efforts "by identifying the airlift capacity to ensure that medical supplies are delivered, coordinating on any surplus capacity or stocks, and better matching requests for support with offers from allies and partners."

Wolters has appointed his vice chief of staff of Allied Command Operations, French Army officer Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann, as head of the task force to combat the coronavirus.

Chang said the NATO task force is also making plans to counter any potential resurgences of coronavirus cases later in the year.

NATO has already helped bring emergency supplies to hard-hit member nations Italy and Spain, as the alliance supports individual governments' domestic responses to the coronavirus.

Allies, however, remain concerned that NATO adversaries may try to conduct attacks while NATO is focused on combating COVID-19, one reason why Chang told VOA that warfighting will remain Wolters' "primary mission."