More muscular NATO emerges even as Russia prevails in Ukraine

MADRID – As a sign of a renewed determination to resist Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO on Wednesday outlined a muscular new strategic vision that positions Moscow as the alliance’s main adversary. For the first time, it also labeled China a strategic “challenge.”

NATO’s new strategic document marks a fundamental shift from the post-Cold War era, when the Atlantic alliance saw Russia as a potential ally rather than targeting China. The move comes as Moscow’s forces continue to gain the upper hand in the fifth month of their protracted war in Ukraine, systematically gaining ground in the east while reducing civilian areas to rubble.

With a deluge of announcements at a summit in Madrid, President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders sought to respond to a resurgent and belligerent Russia. Just before the publication of the new mission statement, they formally invited Finland and Sweden to join, paving the way for NATO’s most significant expansion in more than a decade.

With Turkey dropping its objections to the Nordic states’ applications on Tuesday, the two formerly non-aligned countries would expand NATO’s ranks from 30 member states to 32. Their accession would be a setback for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has described the increasing security of the alliance. footprint near Russian territory as one of the reasons for his February invasion of Ukraine.

And Biden said the United States would station troops permanently on NATO’s eastern flank for the first time by deploying an Army garrison headquarters and field support battalion in Poland, positioning an undisclosed number of American troops for rapid action in countries along the Russian border.

Biden called the summit one of NATO’s most momentous gatherings and vowed that the group—first meeting in 1949 to secure Europe from the Soviet Union—would commit to “exploiting every inch” of its members’ territory. defend, and “was needed now more than ever before.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised developments at the NATO summit in a Twitter post. “We welcome a clear stance on Russia, as well as the accession of Finland and Sweden,” he wrote. “An equally strong and active stance towards Ukraine will help to protect Euro-Atlantic security and stability.”

But while Putin’s invasion has given NATO leaders a new adversary and a new-found purpose, it was far from clear that the alliance could help Ukraine turn the tide in a war in which its forces remain heavily outnumbered and underprivileged. . The Russian leader is far from intimidated as his forces use their superior artillery to bomb Ukrainian cities into submission.

As a sign of confidence in the progress of the war and his firm grip on power at home, Putin this week traveled outside of Russia for the first time since the start of the war, visiting Tajikistan on Tuesday and Turkmenistan on Wednesday. But while he sought to strengthen relations with Russia in Central Asia, Putin also looked to the region as a vital economic partner to help offset economic sanctions and the West’s political isolation.