NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says his organization is “prepared for all eventualities” should Russia retaliate against Finland and Sweden for joining NATO.
Most important points:
- NATO vowed to increase eastern flank troops for member states near border with Russia
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned his country will be “forced to respond in kind”
- Sweden and Finland to sign the accession protocols next week
At a historic NATO summit in Madrid, Sweden and Finland were invited to join the security alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition to the admission of the two countries.
After the decision was made, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent one of his trademark veiled threats to NATO, Sweden and Finland.
“They need to understand clearly that they haven’t had any threats before,” he said.
“If NATO troops and infrastructure are deployed, we will be forced to respond in kind and create the same threats to the areas from which threats against us are created.”
Mr Stoltenberg told a media conference on the last day of the Madrid summit that the two countries were sovereign nations that had made their own choices to join the alliance.
“The most important thing for us is that Finland and Sweden join the alliance,” he said.
The world has changed: Biden
During his final speech to the summit, US President Joe Biden said the world had changed in the 12 years since NATO last issued a mission statement — at the time, Russia was characterized as a “strategic partner” of the alliance.
“NATO is also changing,” he said.
“At this summit, we brought together our alliances to address both the direct threats Russia poses to Europe and the systemic challenges China poses to a rules-based world order.
“Before the war started, I told Putin that if he invaded Ukraine, NATO would not only become stronger, but also become more united, and we would see democracies in the world rise up and resist his aggression and the defend rule-based order.
“And that’s exactly what we’re seeing today.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz used his platform to target Mr Putin’s claim that NATO acted as if it had “imperial ambitions”.
“This is frankly quite ridiculous,” said Mr Scholz.
“Because NATO is basically a defensive alliance.
NATO to ramp up investment in military infrastructure
NATO allies have agreed to increase the alliance’s common funding budget, with members contributing money to run the organization, its commands and its military infrastructure.
When journalists asked about this commitment, Mr Stoltenberg was wary of the numbers but said it was a “significant” increase.
“We are following the decision that we basically made last year,” he said.
As part of this summit, NATO has committed to increasing the number of troops and infrastructure in what it calls its “eastern flank”, in other words, the member states close to Russia.
Mr Stoltenberg reiterated that this is part of NATO’s mission to prevent the war from escalating beyond Ukraine’s borders.
“That is NATO’s core responsibility to ensure there is no misunderstanding in the minds of an adversary that if they do something like Russia did to Georgia in 2008, or Ukraine now, that the full response of the entire alliance will call.”
Further escalating the rhetoric, Russia’s Security Council Vice-President Dmitry Medvedev said sanctions against his country could justify a war.
“And even if a casus belli [justification for war]†
Iceland’s prime minister praises top
Iceland is one of NATO’s founding members and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has a unique perspective on what this summit accomplished.
She has been the leader of her country since 2017.
Her left-green party rejects all forms of militarization and opposes Iceland’s membership in the security alliance, but as the leader of a coalition government, she respects the Icelandic people’s support for NATO.
She told the ABC that the Madrid summit had been a success.
“I think it’s been a very important summit because we’ve actually made a lot of big decisions,” she said.
“The strengthening of NATO on the eastern flank, the strategic concept, that is clearly this long-term vision, which is a very important decision to make. And then third, the accession of Finland and Sweden.”
Ms Jakobsdóttir said Sweden and Finland’s decisions to join NATO, after years of proud of their neutrality, would further strengthen the alliance.
“But also for us in the Nordic region, it means we will have a stronger Scandinavian unity within the alliance.”
Finland and Sweden will sign the accession protocols on Tuesday that will allow them to join.