Madrid epicentre of a historic NATO summit


For two days, Madrid has become the capital of the allies with an impressive security deployment to protect forty world leaders. Some people are celebrating, calling it the summit of democracy. Others have suffered, like the people of Madrid, with severe traffic restrictions and roadblocks around the main arteries, especially near the hotels hosting the foreign delegations. 

It is the 125th day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  In Kiev, President Volodymir Zelenski condemns and deplores the Russian missile bombing of a shopping centre in Kremenchuk full of civilians. 3,636 kilometres away, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit, Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan becomes the hero of the day by lifting his veto on Sweden and Finland joining the Alliance. All is jubilation. 

This war is a turning point. "If Putin wanted less NATO, the only thing he will get is more NATO," remarks Norwegian NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. 

There is such a buzz about the historic meeting between the 30 allied member states that 1,200 journalists from all over the world have been granted press accreditation out of 4,000 applications and I have one. 

Everything is going to change, Biden said live on the air. For Washington, the return to the geopolitics of Europe is a priority for its transatlantic defence: "We are sending an unequivocal message: NATO is strong and united and these measures will enhance our collective strengths. Today I am announcing that the United States will enhance its defence posture in Europe to meet the challenges that the security environment demands. 

Biden's military plans call for strengthening the Alliance by sending more troops, more military equipment and more weapons, particularly to reinforce the eastern flank. 

"Earlier this year we sent 20,000 troops to Europe to respond to Russia's moves. We will continue to strengthen this posture. In Spain, we are going to work with our ally to increase the number of destroyers we have at the Rota base from four to six; in Poland, we are going to create a headquarters to strengthen our collaboration and maintain rotating brigades with 3,000 soldiers and 3,000 employees," he says, convinced of the decision. 

Romania will also have 5,000 US troops. But the Pentagon plans for more: according to the US president, there will be rotating deployments in the Baltic States and two squadrons of F-35 aircraft in the United Kingdom, as well as more air defence capabilities in Germany and Italy. 

The fundamental intention is to make NATO ready for all kinds of threats, on land, at sea and in the air. But the transatlantic organisation's 360-degree strategic vision for the coming years also includes cyber and hybrid threats in its Strategic Concept. 

"Putin is trying to overturn the established world order, and the United States and its allies are rising up; NATO is more necessary than ever, more important than ever," according to Biden. 

On the morning of 29 June, the arrival of each of the 30 leaders at the Palacio Municipal de IFEMA Madrid marked a welcoming protocol flanked by Stoltenberg as NATO Secretary General and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the Summit's host. Each of the leaders wore a commemorative NATO/NATO logo pin on their coat lapel. Biden was the only one who did not wear it; he chose to wear a pin with his country's flag. 

America is back in Europe. To the Europe that Democrat Barack Obama demanded to spend more on its own defence. To the Europe that Republican Donald Trump scorned and scorned the US treasury for paying to defend European citizens and even went so far as to rudely demand that allied countries increase their military spending to 2 per cent.

Russia's war action occupying another country has put all that unpleasantness in the past and at least - for the moment - the allies are only smiling and patting each other as if they were the best of friends. Washington is once again the guarantor of Europe's defence if necessary. 

Stoltenberg could not have been more grateful to his virtual patron: "Thank you very much President Biden, it is a pleasure to see you here in Madrid and thank you for your personal leadership and America's commitment to NATO". 

This demonstrates, the NATO chief continued, decisive leadership in strengthening the transatlantic bond and also unwavering support for Ukraine.

"We are at a historic summit, a transformational summit. We are going to take decisions that will change the Alliance in the coming years; we are going to agree on the Strategic Concept that will be a roadmap for NATO in a more dangerous and competitive world," Stoltenberg anticipated to the assembled journalists. 

As for the immediate future, Finland and Sweden have already received formal invitations to join the military and defence group. All present are celebrating this as a moral triumph over Vladimir Putin. 

This step was made possible by the Turkish leader's lifting of Sweden's and Finland's veto on NATO membership after commitments were made to strengthen laws against terrorist groups. Turkey considers the Kurds a terrorist organisation.  

Everything is moving very fast. On Tuesday 5 July, Sweden and Finland's accession protocol is expected to be signed; practically a fast track process. This in itself is already a historic event considering that both countries have in the last four months (the time of the invasion) broken their traditional stance of neutrality. 

For Turkey, this change of stance will be accompanied by an extradition request consisting of 33 requests related to Kurdish individuals it considers terrorists, most of whom are believed to be in Sweden. 

In addition, President Erdogan has held a bilateral meeting with his US counterpart and secured Washington's support for the modernisation of Turkey's F-16 fighter fleet. 

More support for Ukraine 

During the welcoming speech, President Sánchez mentioned that the allies are sending a very strong and very clear message that Putin "will not win the war in Ukraine" and the invaded country will prevail. 

"We want and need a Transatlantic Alliance that provides peace and security as it has been doing to protect 950 million people since it was founded. That is why it is time to strengthen it to confront security threats", said the Spanish dignitary. 

A peace that for now seems distant because President Zelenski - who participated in the conclave via streaming - wants more money and more weapons. 

"This is not a war that Russia is waging against Ukraine alone. This is a war for the right to dictate conditions in Europe, for what the future world order will look like', in the Ukrainian's view. 

At one point in his speech, Zelenski went so far as to question NATO leaders as to whether the Ukrainians' contribution to Europe's security has not been enough. 

He returned to the rhetoric of fear: "Next year the situation could be worse not only for Ukraine, but for other countries, possibly NATO members, if they are attacked by Russia". 

According to his calculations, his country, which is waging war against Russian occupiers, requires $5 billion a month to resist and try to repel aggression. 

Among the weaponry required, Ukrainian soldiers need "a modern missile defence system" and Zelenski repeatedly asked for this to be provided. 

At one point in his speech he used a somewhat reproachful tone: "Can only one state respond to this kind of threat without help from others? They can give us this help. 

For the Alliance, there is only one way forward for the US: give more support and more money to the Kiev government to help its troops resist and create a strategy for Ukraine to beat the Russian dictator. 

"Our message to Zelensky is clear: Ukraine can count on us. Zelensky is an inspiration to us all. Leaders have agreed to strengthen their support for Ukraine," the NATO leader remarked again. 

Most NATO member states support Ukraine in one way or another. For example, Latvia supplies anti-aircraft missiles, ammunition and other military equipment. Latvian President Egils Levits noted that Latvian spending on Latvia already amounts to about 0.7 per cent of GDP. 

For Stoltenberg, it is time to make a significant contribution to stability and security, not least because the intention is for peace to prevail. 

And to defend it, the Alliance is prepared to increase its military spending: it will raise its military and civilian budgets by 10 per cent annually by 2030 and its infrastructure budget by 25 per cent. 

Even Germany has broken with its stance of controlled spending in its defence budget: its chancellor Olaf Scholz warns of an additional 100 billion euros to modernise its armed forces that will end up benefiting NATO. 

Strengthening for the future 

This is not a facelift. NATO is renewing its vision for the future - at least for the next ten years - by acquiring a new Strategic Concept in 2022 after Lisbon in 2010. 

"NATO members have taken decisions to strengthen the Alliance. Putin has created the biggest security crisis in Europe since the Second World War," announces the Alliance's smiling Secretary General. 

By June 2022, NATO has 37 military bases and various commands on European soil, plus three more bases in Turkey and two in the United States. 

In terms of soldiers, with the 20,000 that the Pentagon sent when the invasion began, there are now 100,000 US soldiers on NATO territory in Europe. And now there will be almost 300,000 more as a goal. 

The new Strategic Concept document signed by consensus among members speaks of "authoritarian actors" with the aim of influencing and testing the resilience of allies. 

They "conduct malicious activities in cyberspace, promote disinformation campaigns, instrumentalise migration, manipulate energy supplies, and employ economic coercion," the text states. 

Russia is addressed as a significant and direct threat "to the security of allies, Euro-Atlantic peace and stability". China, which in 2010 did not figure in the documents signed by the allies, is given a relevant role, not at the risk level of Russia, but is labelled as a 'systemic challenge'. 

It also includes hybrid threats, the role of migratory flows, jihadism, and pays special attention to North Africa, the Sahel and the Middle East. 

Hybrid warfare plays an important role in this Strategic Concept because it equates it with another form of armed attack, which would imply the possibility of invoking common defence. 

All Allies agree to reinforce their military presence on Europe's eastern flank, as well as in the south to Spain's satisfaction. The text states that NATO will "defend" the territorial integrity of all Allies. 

NATO also points out that the aggressor is Russia with its invasion of a free and sovereign country and that at no time does it seek a military confrontation, but that it is aware that several NATO member countries are not exempt from an attack violating their territorial integrity. Russia is asked to be predictable in order to mitigate risks. On the positive side: congratulations to Spain for this great and impeccable organisation...