Thousands protest in Madrid against NATO summit

With the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands of Sundays protested in Madrid against a NATO summit set to take place next week in the Spanish capital.

Member States’ leaders will meet in Madrid between June 29 and 30, amid tight security, as the organization faces the unprecedented challenge of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the offer, opposed by alliance member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations turned to the aftermath of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation. He says he is partly in response to the accession to NATO of other countries near the post-Soviet Russian borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s aim to weaken NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” chanted protesters, who argued that an increase in defense spending in Europe, at the behest of NATO, posed a threat to peace.

“I’ve had enough of this gun trade and killing people. The solution they propose is more guns and wars and we always pay for them. So no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” Concha Hoyos, a retired resident of Madrid, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organizers claimed 5,000 people had joined the march, but authorities in Madrid estimate the number at 2,200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO points to a decline in international security

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, saying Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The dinner of foreign ministers on the 29th will take place on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.