Apr 3, 2019

Congress greets NATO's Stoltenberg with rousing applause

Stoltenberg (at podium) during his address. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today made an impassioned case for the enduring importance of the NATO alliance, which marks its 70th anniversary this week, before a joint session of Congress.

The backdrop: Stoltenberg’s invitation to address Congress — and the string of standing ovations he received — serves as a pointed reminder to President Trump of the bipartisan support for the alliance, which Trump has at times portrayed as a financial drag on the U.S. with dwindling geopolitical significance. Stoltenberg praised Trump for pressuring allies to spend more on defense, while noting “serious disagreements” in the alliance over issues like trade and the Iran nuclear deal. But he said NATO remains crucial to both the U.S. and Europe in the face of “unprecedented challenges.”

Stoltenberg said that among the “challenges no one nation can face alone” are a shifting global balance of power, sophisticated cyberattacks and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence that could be used in warfare.

  • On a personal note, Stoltenberg reflected on being instructed to “hold the line” against the Soviet Union during his time as a conscript in the Norwegian army. He said Norwegian troops knew they could never fend off the Soviet Union alone, but could with NATO behind them.

His bottom line: Stoltenberg was the first secretary general to address Congress. He said NATO had “not lasted 70 years out of a sense of nostalgia,” but because it was central to the national interests of its members.

  • In closing, he said: “Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, it is good to have friends.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,251 people and infected almost 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.