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NATO chief rules out system for expelling members

November 30, 2021 GMT
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that there’s little chance the military organization would ever introduce a system for expelling anyone among its ranks, as tensions quietly simmer between a number of the 30 member countries.

“NATO doesn’t have any mechanism to expel members. And I will not recommend that to be introduced in our founding treaty,” Stoltenberg said in Riga, Latvia, ahead of a two-day meeting of the security alliance’s foreign ministers.

“Even if I recommend it, it would never happen, because we need consensus to do that,” he said, referring to the need for unanimity in NATO decision-making, which gives every member country a de-facto veto.

Turkey has angered several members by purchasing Russian-made missile systems and for its energy exploration work in disputed Mediterranean waters. Last year, Turkish warships were also locked in a standoff with French naval vessels policing a U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said in 2019 that the alliance was suffering from “brain death” due to a lack of U.S. leadership. He complained about the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria without consulting allies.

Macron, who was also angered by a U.S.-British deal with Australia this year that scuppered a multibillion-dollar French submarine contact, demanded a review of the way NATO functions politically.

The ministers will discuss Stoltenberg’s proposals for revising NATO’s “Strategic Concept,” which is essentially the organization’s mission statement and road map for adapting to modern security challenges. The last one dates from 2010 and does not consider China or climate change.

NATO leaders are set to endorse a final text when they meet in Madrid on June 29-30.

It’s unclear how the alliance will cope with the authoritarian ways of some of its members, or how to manage problems that arise when one country boycotts NATO actions, for example when Hungary blocked high-level meetings with Ukraine over the rights of the Hungarian minority there.

Stoltenberg said he believes that expelling members isn’t the answer. “I think it’s better to use NATO as a platform, also to have honest and frank discussions when we are concerned about whether all allies meet the democratic standards,” he said.

“If these countries were expelled, then that platform would no longer exist. So, I think it’s better to keep NATO with all the members.”