Ns News Online Desk: NATO faced rebukes from Moscow and Beijing on Thursday after it declared Russia a “direct threat” and said China posed “serious challenges ” to global stability
During a summit in Madrid, the Western military alliance described a world plunged into a dangerous phase of big-power competition and facing myriad threats, from cyberattacks to climate change. North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state met for the final day of a NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said as the summit wrapped up Thursday that member nations agreed on a “fundamental shift in our deterrence and defense” and sent Moscow a clear message that the alliance had a firm line drawn on its eastern frontier.
“We live in a more dangerous world and we live in a more unpredictable world, and we live in a world where we have a hot war going on in Europe,” Stoltenberg said. “At the same time, we also know that this can get worse if this becomes a full scale war between Russia and NATO.”
Stoltenberg continued: “We want to remove any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding in Moscow, about our readiness to protect every inch of NATO territory. That’s NATO’s core responsibility.”
Over their three days of talks in Spain, NATO leaders formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, after overcoming opposition from Turkey. If the Nordic nations’ accession is approved by the 30 member nations, it will give NATO a new 800-mile (1,300 kilometer) border with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond in kind if the Nordic pair allowed NATO troops and military infrastructure onto their territory. He said Russia would have to “create the same threats for the territory from which threats against us are created.”
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Putin’s threats were “nothing new.”
“Of course, we have to expect some kind of surprises from Putin, but I doubt that he is attacking Sweden or Finland directly,” Kallas said as she arrived at the summit’s conference center venue. “We will see cyberattacks definitely. We will see hybrid attacks, information war is going on. But not the conventional war.”
China accused the alliance of “maliciously attacking and smearing” the country. Its mission to the European Union said NATO “claims that other countries pose challenges, but it is NATO that is creating problems around the world.”
NATO leaders turned their gaze south for a final summit session Thursday focused on Africa’s Sahel region and the Middle East, where political instability — aggravated by climate change and food insecurity sparked by the war in Ukraine — is driving large numbers of migrants toward Europe.
“It is in our interest to continue working with our close partners in the south to fight shared challenges together,” Stoltenberg said.
But it was Russia that dominated the summit. Stoltenberg said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine had brought “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”
The invasion shattered Europe’s peace, and in response NATO has poured troops and weapons into Eastern Europe on a scale unseen in decades. Member nations have given Ukraine billions in military and civilian aid to strengthen its resistance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed the summit by video link, asked for more. He urged NATO to send modern artillery systems and other weapons and warned the leaders they either had to provide Kyiv with the help it needed or “face a delayed war between Russia and yourself.”
“The question is, who’s next? Moldova? Or the Baltics? Or Poland? The answer is: all of them,” he said.
At the summit, NATO leaders agreed to dramatically scale up military force along the alliance’s eastern flank, where countries from Romania to the Baltic states worry about Russia’s future plans.