New Strategy, New Members, Old Enemies: Highlights from NATO Summit

On day two of its annual summit, the alliance formally addressed its strategy against Russia

The annual NATO summit was held in Madrid on Wednesday, with leaders of the US-led military alliance agreeing to hire two new members, citing Russia as the biggest threat to the bloc.

China also found its place on the agenda, as did Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who again petitioned Western leaders for billions of dollars from their taxpayers’ pockets.

A new strategy NATO leaders agreed on Wednesday to adopt a new Strategic Concept. This document serves as a policy blueprint that outlines the alliance’s attitude toward non-members, partners and adversaries. It was last updated in 2010.

As expected, the new version names Russia as the “most significant and immediate threat” to the military bloc, accusing Moscow of “pattern … of aggressive actions” against the wider transatlantic community.

The document does not promise Ukraine ultimate membership, but states that NATO will remain “Developing our partnership” with both Ukraine and Georgia. Although Moscow has viewed NATO’s expansion into former Soviet territory as an unacceptable security risk since the end of the Cold War, the latest Strategic Concept maintains that “NATO does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to the Russian Federation.”

NATO was founded in 1949 to counter the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. In its first-ever Strategic Concept, adopted the following year, the alliance gave itself the right to defend the entire North Atlantic region “by every means possible with all kinds of weapons, without exception.”

New membersAfter several weeks of diplomatic squabbles, the alliance said in a statement that it had formally invited Sweden and Finland to join. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the swift accession of the Scandinavian countries as: “unparalleled.”

Finland and Sweden, the latter of which has been neutral since the 19th century, applied to join the bloc in mid-May, just months after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine.

However, the accession process was initially blocked by Turkey, which wanted both countries to stop supporting organizations considered terrorist groups by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and to lift an arms embargo against Ankara. After a deal was agreed on Tuesday, Erdogan stated that: “Turkey got what it wanted”, and Finland and Sweden became observer states at the Madrid summit.

Zelensky’s demands

NATO’s support for Ukraine comes with a hefty price tag, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told alliance leaders. In a video address on Wednesday, Zelensky demanded that the West “urgent help sufficient for the victory,” or dealing with “a postponed war between Russia and you.”

The Ukrainian leader asked for both military and financial aid, saying his country needed $5 billion a month to cover only its budget deficit. Despite a series of losses in the Donbass – with Russian forces taking the main city of Severodonetsk since the weekend and extending their control over Lisichansk – Zelensky asked NATO to help him. “End this war with a victory on the battlefield.”

To date, the US has given Ukraine more than $55 billion in military and economic aid, while the UK has donated more than $3.2 billion. The EU has contributed approximately USD 5.8 billion.

Warnings for China

While Russia dominated the discussion in Madrid, the alliance’s new Strategic Concept also suggested that China’s “compulsory policies put our interests, security and values ​​to the test”, and that Beijing’s ties to Moscow “contrary to our values ​​and interests.”
Although the policy document stated that NATO would remain “open to constructive involvement” with China, some of the bloc’s top officials were less diplomatic on Wednesday. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced China’s growing military could present “a problem for Euro-Atlantic security”, and warned Beijing that any attempt to seize control of Taiwan by force would be… “a catastrophic miscalculation.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanian also called on China to condemn Russia’s operation in Ukraine, something Beijing has given no indication it will do. Albanian said he has a “very successful” meeting with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and New Zealand on the sidelines of the summit, as Chinese officials have repeatedly accused Australia of attempting to unite its allies in a “Asia-Pacific Version of NATO.”

Biden to put more boots on the ground

US President Joe Biden announced during Wednesday’s meetings that the US would increase its military presence in Eastern Europe, set up permanent headquarters in Poland, send two more F-35 jet squadrons to the UK and deploy 5,000 troops in would station Romania.

Air Defense and “other possibilities” will be sent to Germany and Italy, Biden said, while the US will increase the number of destroyers in Spain from four to six.

The increase in military presence will bring the total number of US troops deployed in Europe to 100,000, according to a White House statement.