NATO declares Russia a ‘immediate threat’
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NATO declares Russia a ‘immediate threat’

NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance in one of the biggest shifts in European security decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted officials in Helsinki and Stockholm to abandon their traditions of neutrality.

The 30 members of NATO made the decision at their summit in Madrid and also agreed to formally treat Russia as the “main and most immediate threat to the security of the allies,” a statement from the summit said.

“Today we decided to invite Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” NATO leaders said in their statement after Turkey overturned a veto against Finland’s and Sweden’s accession.

NATO deems Russia its 'most significant and direct threat' | AP News

Ratification in the allied parliaments will likely take a year. Still, once that is done, Finland and Sweden will fall under NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause, putting them under the protective nuclear umbrella of the United States.

“We will ensure that we can protect all allies, including Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said.

In the meantime, the Allies will increase their troops in the Scandinavian region, holding more military exercises and naval 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 colleagues on a series of security measures to allow the two Scandinavian countries to overcome the Turkish veto threatened in May over concerns over terrorism.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established in 1949 to defend against the Soviet threat.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 gave the organization new impetus after failures in Afghanistan and internal dissension 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 Sánchez said in a speech.

Members also agreed on NATO’s first new strategic concept – the master planning document – in ten years.

Russia, previously identified as NATO’s strategic partner, is now recognized as NATO’s main threat.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is “a direct threat to our Western way of life,” added Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, citing the wider impact of the war, such as rising energy and food prices.

The planning document also first cited China as a challenge, paving the way for the 30 allies to plan for the country’s transformation from a benign trading partner to a fast-growing competitor from the Arctic to cyberspace.

Unlike Russia, whose war in Ukraine has raised serious concerns in the Baltic states over an attack on NATO territory, China is not an adversary, NATO leaders say.

But Stoltenberg has repeatedly called on China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which officials in Moscow say is a “special operation.”

At the summit, NATO agreed on a longer-term support package for Ukraine and billions of dollars already pledged in arms and financial aid.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said arms would continue to be delivered to Ukraine, seeking help to overpower Russian artillery, particularly in the east of the country, where Russia is slowly advancing in a war of attrition.

“The message is: we will continue to do this – and do this intensively – for as long as it takes to enable Ukraine to defend itself,” Scholz said.

The military alliance also agrees that major countries such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada pre-allocate troops, weapons, and equipment to the Baltic states and are stepping up training exercises.

NATO also aims to have as many as 300,000 troops ready for deployment in the event of a conflict as part of a comprehensive NATO response force.

Russia is achieving the opposite of what Putin sought when he launched his war in Ukraine, partly to thwart NATO expansion, alliance leaders say.

Finland, which has a 1,300km border with Russia, and Sweden, home to the Nobel Peace Prize founder, will now bring well-trained military personnel to NATO, aiming to give the alliance the Baltic Sea superiority.

“One of President Putin’s key messages … was that he was against any further expansion of NATO,” Stoltenberg said Tuesday evening.

“He wanted less NATO. Now President Putin gets more NATO on his borders.”