Russia's annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 was the result of increased "great power competition," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on August 5.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic Studies at New Zealand's Victoria University, Stoltenberg said that, along with competition between great powers, terrorism and cybersecurity are the other main challenges facing NATO.
He specifically mentioned Russia and China as being "more assertive." He observed that Moscow is significantly building up "military capabilities," which is putting the "rules based order under pressure."
The latest example is the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2.
Stoltenberg blamed Russia for violating the 1987 treaty by deploying new missiles, an allegation that Moscow denies.
Russia said the United States abandoned the pact so it can start a new arms race.
The treaty banned the Soviet Union and United States from developing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Regarding Crimea, Stoltenberg said its "illegal annexation" was the "first time in Europe that one country has taken a part of another country since the end of Second World War."
Russia's increased presence in the Middle East and Syria was noted, while he said Moscow was "trying to meddle in and undermining the trust of democratic institutions in several NATO allied countries and also elsewhere.”
Stoltenberg justified the alliance's presence in Afghanistan to ensure the country "doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists."
He voiced concern over Turkey’s decision to purchase a Russian air defense system because it "will not be integrated into the integrated air and missile defense system we already have in Europe."
Stoltenberg also said cyberrelated issues were "now changing the nature of conflict as fundamentally as the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of conflict before the First World War.”
Toward the end of his speech, Stoltenberg said, we were now living in "a more unpredictable, uncertain world."