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NATO leadership: Alliance faces biggest challenge since World War II

MADRID – NATO leaders hope to translate the sense of urgency of purpose triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into action at Wednesday’s summit – and to patch any cracks in the unity of the NATO them about money and mission.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the coalition meeting in Madrid took place “in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced since the Second World War”.

Russia’s invasion of its neighbor has disrupted Europe’s peace and prompted NATO to pour troops and weapons into Eastern Europe on a scale not seen since the Cold War.

Alliance members have also sent billions of dollars in military and civilian aid to Ukraine. The 30 NATO leaders will hear directly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will likely ask them to do more as he addresses the meeting by video link.

US President Joe Biden, who provides much of NATO’s military power, said the summit would send “an unmistakable message… that NATO is strong and united”.

“We are moving forward. We are proving that NATO is needed more than ever,” Biden said. He announced an increase in the US military presence in Europe, including a permanent US base in Poland, two more Navy destroyers based at Rota, Spain, and two more F35 squadrons to come. UK.

But tensions between the NATO allies have also surfaced as the cost of energy and other essential commodities has skyrocketed, in part due to war and tough Western sanctions on Russia. There are also tensions over how the war will end and what concessions Ukraine should make to prevent hostilities.

Money can also be a sensitive issue – only nine of NATO’s 30 members currently meet the organization’s goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country has hit the target, called on NATO allies to “dig deep to restore deterrence and secure defense for the next decade”.

The war has greatly increased NATO forces in Eastern Europe, and the allies are expected to agree at the summit to increase the strength of the alliance’s rapid response force by nearly eight times, from 40,000 to 40,000. 300,000 troops, next year. Troops will be stationed in their own countries, but reserved for specific countries on NATO’s eastern flank, where the alliance plans to amass stockpiles of equipment and ammunition.

Stoltenberg said NATO is undertaking “the biggest overhaul to our collective defense system since the end of the Cold War”.

The leaders are also set to unveil a new NATO Strategic Concept, a decade-long set of NATO priorities and goals.

The last such document, in 2010, called Russia a “strategic partner”. Now, this coalition will declare Moscow as their number one threat. The document will also lay out NATO’s approach to issues ranging from cybersecurity to climate change – and China’s growing economic and military reach.

For the first time, the leaders of Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand attended the summit as guests, reflecting the growing importance of the Asia and Pacific region.

Stoltenberg said that China is not a rival to NATO, but poses “challenges to our values, our interests and our security”.

Mr. Biden is expected to hold a rare meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the summit, which will focus on North Korea’s nuclear program.

The summit opened with an issue resolved, after Turkey agreed on Tuesday to lift its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. In response to the invasion, the two Nordic countries abandoned their longstanding non-alignment and applied to join NATO to defend against an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia, which has a long border. with Finland.

NATO works by consensus, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to blockade the Nordic bloc, insisting it changed its stance on Kurdish rebel groups that Turkey considers terrorists.

After high-level talks with the leaders of the three countries, Union Minister Stoltenberg said the deadlock had been resolved.

Turkey hailed Tuesday’s deal as a victory, saying the Nordic nations had agreed to crack down on groups that Ankara considers a national security threat, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. considered a terrorist group by the US and EU, and their Syrians. extension. It said it also agreed to “not impose embargo restrictions in the defense industry sector” on Turkey and to take “concrete steps on the extradition of terrorist criminals”.

Stoltenberg said the leaders of the 30-nation coalition will issue a formal invitation on Wednesday for the two countries to join. The decision must be ratified by all countries, but he said he was “fully confident” that Finland and Sweden would become members.

Stoltenberg said he expects the process to be completed “quite quickly,” but did not set a timeline.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Madrid contributed.

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Follow AP war news at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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