NATO calls Russia ‘largest and most direct threat’ – WSB-TV Channel 2

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MADRID – (AP) – NATO said Wednesday that Russia is the “most significant and direct threat” to the peace and security of its members and pledged to strengthen its support for Ukraine, even though that country’s leader chastised the alliance for not doing more to help him defeat Moscow.

The condemnation of the military organization was not entirely surprising: its leader had earlier said that Russia’s war in Ukraine had created the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II. But it was a sobering about-face for an alliance that a decade ago branded Moscow a strategic partner.

Created some 70 years ago to counter the Soviet Union, NATO held its summit in Madrid in a world transformed by the invasion of its neighbor by Russia. The war has prompted the alliance to pour troops and weapons into Eastern Europe on a scale not seen in decades and has pushed Sweden and Finland to seek the security of NATO membership.

The two formerly non-aligned nations were officially invited to join on Wednesday, as General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said the war had brought “the biggest overhaul to our collective defense since the end of the Cold War”.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has lamented that NATO’s policy of openness to new members does not seem to apply to his country.

“NATO’s open door policy shouldn’t be like the old Kyiv metro turnstiles, which stay open but close when you approach until you pay,” Zelenskyy said via video link. “Hasn’t Ukraine paid enough?

He also called for more modern artillery systems and other weapons and warned the leadership that they must either give Kyiv the help it needed or “face a delayed war between Russia and yourselves.” “.

“The question is who is next? Moldova? Or the Baltic? Or Poland? The answer is: all,” he said. “We are deterring Russia to prevent it from destroying us and destroying you.”

Zelenskyy acknowledged that NATO membership is a distant prospect. Under NATO treaties, an attack on any of the 30 members would trigger a military response from the entire alliance, so it is trying to strike a delicate balance, letting its nations arm Ukraine without triggering a direct confrontation with Russia with nuclear weapons.

At the same time, NATO has moved quickly to ensure its members are protected, dramatically increasing military strength along its eastern flank, where countries from Romania to the Baltic states are worried about future plans for Russia.

It plans to increase the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force nearly eightfold, from 40,000 to 300,000 troops, by next year. Troops will be based in their home countries but dedicated to specific countries in the East, where the alliance plans to stockpile equipment and ammunition.

US President Joe Biden, whose country provides the bulk of NATO’s military power, promised the summit would send “an unequivocal message… that NATO stands strong and united”.

“We are stepping up. We are proving that NATO is more needed now than it has ever been,” Biden said. He announced a large increase in US military presence in Europe, including a permanent US base in Poland, two more Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and two more F35 squadrons in the UK.

Yet tensions among NATO allies have also arisen as the cost of energy and other essentials has soared, in part because of the war and tough Western sanctions on Russia. There are also tensions over how the war will end and what concessions, if any, Ukraine should make.

Money remains a sensitive issue – only nine of NATO’s 30 members currently meet the organisation’s goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defence.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country hits the target, urged NATO allies “to dig deep to restore deterrence and deliver defense in the decade to come”.

At the summit, leaders released NATO’s new Strategic Concept, its set of priorities and goals for a decade.

The last such document, in 2010, called Russia a “strategic partner”. At the time, the idea of ​​Russia waging a ground war on NATO’s borders would have seemed far-fetched.

Now NATO has accused Russia of using “coercion, subversion, aggression and annexation” to extend its reach.

The document also lays out NATO’s approach to issues ranging from cybersecurity to climate change – and China’s growing economic and military reach.

Although it did not name China an adversary, NATO said Beijing’s “stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, our security and our values.”

‘China does not share our values ​​and, like Russia, seeks to undermine the rules-based international order,’ Stoltenberg said – although the alliance said it remained ‘open to constructive engagement’ with Beijing.

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

NATO also stressed the need to address political instability in the Sahel region of Africa and the Middle East – compounded by “climate change, fragile institutions, health emergencies and food insecurity”. – which pushes a large number of migrants towards Europe. Host Spain and other European countries pushed for this new direction.

The summit, which ends on Thursday, opened with a problem solved, after Turkey agreed on Tuesday to drop its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

NATO works by consensus and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block the Nordic pair, insisting they change their stance on Kurdish rebel groups Turkey considers terrorists.

After talks with the leaders of the three countries, Stoltenberg said the standoff had been resolved.

The two countries’ membership must be ratified by all nations, but Stoltenberg said he was “absolutely convinced” that Finland and Sweden would soon become members.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said his country was eager to move out of the “grey area” of having applied for membership but not yet fully covered by NATO’s collective defense guarantee.

“Our goal is for this period to be as short as possible,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Madrid contributed.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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