Security challenges have not diminished because of COVID-19. On the contrary, potential adversaries will look to exploit the situation to further their own interests, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO is seeing "a continued pace of Russian military activity," Stoltenberg told reporters following a virtual meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defense Ministers' session.

"Terrorist groups could be emboldened. The security situation in Afghanistan and Iraq remains fragile. And we see a continued pace of Russian military activity. So we must maintain our deterrence and defense. So we must maintain our deterrence and defense," said Stoltenberg.

"Because our core mission remains the same: to ensure peace and stability," said the NATO chief.

The defense ministers also discussed the importance of countering disinformation – both from state and non-state actors, "trying to sow division in the Alliance and in Europe" and to "undermine our democracies." 

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"We are countering these false narratives with facts, and with concrete actions. We are also working even closer with Allies, and the European Union, to identify, monitor, and expose disinformation. And to respond robustly," said Stoltenberg.

There are good reasons, the NATO chief believes, for looking into further strengthening cooperation between the civil society combating a health crisis and military capabilities, providing support to those civilian efforts because health crisis "doesn't mean that more traditional security threats disappear."

"Cyber threats are still real. And we see a more assertive Russia continue to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine, which are violating the ceasefire again and again.  Or we see Russia being present in Syria, making it possible for Assad to do what he does against his own population. And we see, also, many other challenges and threats," said Stoltenberg.