© Reuters. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to mark the start of the roundtable meeting at the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 29, 2022. Susan Walsh / Pool via REUTERS
By Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott
MADRID (Reuters) – NATO on Wednesday invited Sweden and Finland to join a military alliance in one of the biggest changes to European security in decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine left Helsinki and Stockholm. abandon the tradition of neutrality.
30 NATO allies made the decision at their summit in Madrid and also agreed to formally consider Russia “the most immediate and significant threat to our allies’ security,” according to a report. summit statement.
“Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” the NATO leaders said in their statement, after Turkey lifted its veto on Finland. Lan and Sweden joined.
Ratification in allied parliaments could take up to a year, but once completed, Finland and Sweden will enjoy the collective defense clause under NATO’s Article 5, placing them under the protective nuclear umbrella. of the United States.
“We will make sure that we can protect all our allies, including Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said.
Meanwhile, the allies will increase their military presence in the Nordic region, hold more naval exercises and patrols in the Baltic Sea to reassure Sweden and Finland.
After four hours of talks in Madrid on Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts a series of security measures to allow the two Nordic countries to bypass Turkey’s veto. Turkey, which Ankara imposed in May due to concerns about terrorism.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established in 1949 to defend against the Soviet threat. Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine gave the organization a new impetus after failures in Afghanistan and internal discord during the era of former US President Donald Trump.
“We are sending a strong message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin: ‘you will not win’,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech.
The Allies also agreed on NATO’s first new strategic concept – the master plan document – in a decade. Russia, previously considered a strategic partner of NATO, is now identified as the main threat to NATO.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “a direct threat to our Western way of life”, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo added, citing the broader impact of the war, such as energy prices. and food increases.
The plan document also cites China as a challenge for the first time, setting the stage for the 30 allies to plan how to deal with Beijing’s transformation from a benign trading partner into a growing competitor. rapidly evolving from the Arctic to cyberspace.
NATO leaders say that unlike Russia, whose war in Ukraine has raised serious concerns about an attack on NATO territory, China is not an adversary. But Stoltenberg has repeatedly called on Beijing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow says is a “special operation”.
At the summit, NATO agreed to a longer-term support package for Ukraine, in addition to the billions of dollars pledged in arms and financial support.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that arms would continue to be supplied to Kyiv, seeking help to tame Russian artillery, especially in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is slowly advancing in a war of attrition. .
“The message is: We will continue to do so – and do this intensively – for as long as necessary for Ukraine to be able to defend itself,” Scholz said.
The Western Union also agreed that major allies such as the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Canada forward troops, weapons and equipment to the Baltics and increase exercises. NATO is also aiming to have up to 300,000 troops ready to deploy in the event of a conflict, part of NATO’s expanded response force.
Western leaders say Russia is achieving the opposite of what Putin sought when he launched the war in Ukraine, in part to counter NATO expansion.
Both Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810 mi) border with Russia, and Sweden, home of the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, are now set up to bring well-trained troops into NATO, to give the Baltic Sea alliance the upper hand. .
“One of the most important messages from President Putin … is that he is against any NATO expansion,” Stoltenberg said Tuesday night. “He wants less NATO. Now President Putin has more NATO on his borders.”