During three days of talks in Spain, NATO leaders formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, after overcoming opposition from Turkey.
NATO faced rebuke from Moscow and Beijing on Thursday after declaring Russia a “direct threat” and saying China posed “serious challenges” to global stability.
At a summit in Madrid, the Western military alliance described a world plunged into a dangerous phase of great power competition and facing a myriad of threats, from cyberattacks to climate change.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of the summit on Thursday that member countries agreed on a “fundamental change in our deterrence and defence” and sent Moscow a clear message. indicating that the alliance had a firm line drawn on its eastern border.
“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 it can get worse if it becomes a full-scale war between Russia and NATO.”
Stoltenberg continued: “We want to remove any possibility of miscalculation, of misunderstanding in Moscow, about our desire to protect every square inch of NATO territory. This is NATO’s fundamental responsibility.”
During their three days of talks in Spain, NATO leaders formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, after overcoming opposition from Turkey. If Nordic membership is approved by all 30 member countries, it will give NATO a new 800-mile border with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that he would react in the same way if the two Nordic countries allowed NATO troops and military infrastructure on their territory. He said Russia should “create the same threats to territory from which threats to us are created.”
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Putin’s threats were “nothing new”.
“Of course we should expect surprises from Putin, but I doubt he will directly attack Sweden or Finland,” Kallas said as he arrived at the summit’s conference center. “We will definitely see cyberattacks. We will see hybrid attacks, information warfare continues. But not conventional warfare.”
China has accused the alliance of “attacking and smearing” the country in a malicious way. Its mission to the European Union said NATO “says that other countries pose challenges, but it is NATO that creates problems around the world”.
NATO leaders turned their gaze south for a final summit session on Thursday focused on Africa’s Sahel region and the Middle East, where political instability – compounded by climate change and food insecurity caused by the war in Ukraine – drives a large number of migrants to Europe.
“It is in our interests to continue to work with our close partners in the south to tackle common challenges together,” Stoltenberg said.
But it was Russia that dominated the summit. Stoltenberg said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War”.
The invasion shattered the peace in Europe, and in response NATO poured troops and weapons into Eastern Europe on a scale not seen in decades. Member countries have given Ukraine billions in military and civilian aid to bolster its resilience.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed the summit via video link, demanded more. He urged NATO to send modern artillery systems and other weapons and warned leaders that they must either give Kyiv the help it needed or “face a delayed war between the 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 increase military strength along the alliance’s eastern flank, where countries from Romania to the Baltic states are worried about Russia’s future plans.
They announced their intention to increase the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force eightfold, from 40,000 to 300,000 troops, by next year. Troops will be based in their home countries but dedicated to specific countries in the East, where the alliance plans to stockpile equipment and ammunition.
US President Joe Biden, whose country provides the bulk of NATO’s firepower, announced a large increase in US military presence in Europe, including a permanent US base in Poland, two more destroyers from the navy based in Rota, Spain, and two other F35 squadrons in the UK
The expansion will keep 100,000 troops in Europe for the foreseeable future, up from 80,000 before the war in Ukraine began.
President Biden said Putin believed NATO members would split after invading Ukraine, but the Russian leader got the opposite response.
“You’re going to get the NATO-ization of Europe,” President Biden said. “And that’s exactly what he didn’t want, but exactly what needs to be done to keep Europe safe.”
Yet tensions among NATO allies have arisen as the cost of energy and other essentials has soared, in part because of the war and tough Western sanctions on Russia. There are also tensions over how the war will end and what concessions, if any, Ukraine should make.
Money remains a sensitive issue – only nine of NATO’s 30 members currently meet the organisation’s goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defence.
Britain, one of the nine, announced an additional £1 billion ($1.21 billion) in military support for Ukraine on Thursday,
At what Stoltenberg called a “transformative” summit, leaders released NATO’s new strategic concept, its set of priorities and goals for a decade.
The last such document, in 2010, called Russia a “strategic partner”. Now NATO accuses Russia of using “coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation” to extend its reach.
The 2010 document made no mention of China, but the new one discussed Beijing’s growing economic and military reach.
“China is not our adversary, but we have to be clear about the serious challenges it poses,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
NATO said China “is working to overturn the rules-based international order, including in space, cyber and maritime” and warned of its close ties with Moscow.
The alliance, however, said it remained “open to constructive engagement” with Beijing.
China countered that NATO was a source of instability and pledged to defend its interests.
“As NATO positions China as a ‘systemic challenge’, we must be very alert and respond in a coordinated manner. Regarding acts that undermine China’s interests, we will provide firm and strong responses.” , says its press release.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.