NATO Head:Biggest Challenge Since WWII 06/29 06:18
NATO leaders sought Wednesday to turn an urgent sense of purpose triggered
by Russia's invasion of Ukraine into action -- and to patch up any cracks in
their unity to overcome what the alliance's chief called its biggest crisis
since World War II.
MADRID (AP) -- NATO leaders sought Wednesday to turn an urgent sense of
purpose triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine into action -- and to patch
up any cracks in their unity to overcome what the alliance's chief called its
biggest crisis since World War II.
Russia's invasion of its neighbor shattered Europe's peace and drove NATO to
pour troops and weapons into eastern Europe on a scale not seen since the Cold
War. Members of the alliance have also sent billions in military and civilian
aid to Ukraine.
The 30 NATO leaders meeting in Madrid will hear directly from Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is likely to ask them to do even more when
he addresses the gathering by video link. And NATO Secretary-General Jens
Stoltenberg acknowledged the alliance is "in the midst of the most serious
security crisis we have faced since the Second World War."
U.S. President Joe Biden, whose country provides the bulk of NATO's military
power, said the summit would send "an unmistakable message ... that NATO is
strong and united."
"We're stepping up. We're proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever
has been," said Biden. He announced a hefty boost in America's military
presence in Europe, including a permanent U.S. base in Poland, two more Navy
destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and two more F35 squadrons to the U.K.
But strains among NATO allies have also emerged as the cost of energy and
other essential goods has skyrocketed, partly because of the the war and tough
Western sanctions on Russia. There also are tensions over how the war will end
and what, if any, concessions Ukraine should make to stop the fighting.
Money could also be a sensitive issue -- just nine of NATO's 30 members
currently meet the organization's target of spending 2% of gross domestic
product on defense.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country does hit the target,
urged NATO allies "to dig deep to restore deterrence and ensure defense in the
The war has already triggered a big increase in NATO's forces in eastern
Europe, and allies are expected to agree at the summit to boost the strength of
the alliance's rapid reaction force nearly eightfold, from 40,000 to 300,000
troops, by next year. The troops will be based in their home nations, but
dedicated to specific countries on NATO's eastern flank, where the alliance
plans to build up stocks of equipment and ammunition.
Stoltenberg said NATO was undertaking "the biggest overhaul of our
collective defense since the end of the Cold War."
The leaders are also set to publish NATO's new Strategic Concept, its
once-a-decade set of priorities and goals.
The last such document, in 2010, called Russia a "strategic partner." Now,
the alliance is set to declare Moscow its No. 1 threat. The document will also
set out NATO's approach on issues from cybersecurity to climate change -- and
the growing economic and military reach of China.
For the first time, the leaders of Japan, Australia, South Korea and New
Zealand are attending the summit as guests, a reflection of the growing
importance of Asia and the Pacific region.
Stoltenberg said China was not NATO's adversary, but posed "challenges to
our values, to our interest and to our security."
Biden was due to hold a rare meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio
Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the
summit, focused on North Korea's nuclear program.
The summit opened with one problem solved, after Turkey agreed Tuesday to
lift its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. In response to the
invasion, the two Nordic nations abandoned their long-held nonaligned status
and applied to join NATO as protection against an increasingly aggressive and
unpredictable Russia -- which shares a long border with Finland.
NATO operates by consensus, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
threatened to block the Nordic pair, insisting they change their stance on
Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.
After urgent top-level talks with leaders of the three countries, alliance
Secretary Stoltenberg said the impasse had been cleared.
Turkey hailed Tuesday's agreement as a triumph, saying the Nordic nations
had agreed to crack down on groups that Ankara deems national security threats,
including the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is also considered a terrorist
group by the U.S. and the EU, and its Syrian extension. It said they also
agreed "not to impose embargo restrictions in the field of defense industry" on
Turkey and to take "concrete steps on the extradition of terrorist criminals."
Stoltenberg said leaders of the 30-nation alliance will issue a formal
invitation Wednesday to the two countries to join. The decision has to be
ratified by all individual nations, but he said he was "absolutely confident"
Finland and Sweden would become members.
Stoltenberg said he expected the process to be finished "rather quickly,"
but did not set a time on it.