NATO is looking forward to a “historic” summit in Madrid with Sweden and Finland

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that next month’s summit in Madrid would be “historic” …

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that next month’s summit in Madrid would be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Speaking at a gala celebration in Madrid marking Spain’s 40th anniversary as a NATO member, Stoltenberg said he looked forward to welcoming Sweden and Finland to a summit in the Spanish capital on June 29-30.

“At the summit in Madrid, we will chart a path for the next decade,” Stoltenberg said. “We will also be joined by Finland and Sweden, which have just submitted historic applications to join our alliance. The Madrid Summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm our NATO values. “

But the leader of the 30-member alliance did not touch on Turkey’s reluctance to open its doors to Sweden and Finland. Turkey, which leads NATO’s second-largest military force after the United States, cites alleged support from Kurdish militants by the Nordic countries, which Turkey sees as terrorists in rejecting their claims. Unanimous support is needed to add new NATO members.

On Sunday, when Stoltenberg held a closed-door meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to prepare for the summit, he expressed confidence that Turkey could be persuaded to abandon the Scandinavian couple.

“Turkey, an important ally, has expressed its concern, and we must do what we always do, because our decisions are made by consensus,” he told Spanish state-run TVE.

Sanchez and King Felipe VI of Spain presided over a ceremony Monday at the Royal Theater of Madrid, attended by Stoltenberg and four former NATO secretaries general and three former Spanish prime ministers.

Next month’s summit will review NATO’s strategic priorities for the next decade, which Stoltenberg said include countering Chinese ambitions, growing anti-democracies, climate change and instability in Africa, a top priority for Spain on the southern flank. But his immediate focus will be on how to continue to support Ukraine and deter any further aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spain became the 16th member of NATO on 30 May 1982. Her accession marked a milestone in Spain’s return to the international political order following the end of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship after his death in 1975. The country’s accession to NATO came just a year after a nascent democracy experienced a failed military coup. Spain later joined the European Union in 1986.

At the 1997 NATO summit hosted by Spain, former members of the Soviet bloc of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were invited to join the alliance they once opposed.

“Next month, Madrid will host another historic summit,” Stoltenberg said. “This time, however, the context is quite different, not a new surge of freedom, but a cold outbreak of conflict.”

Spain helps Ukraine with humanitarian aid and military equipment. Its troops are deployed in NATO missions in Turkey, Latvia, Lithuania and Iraq, in addition to naval operations.

“Today, our security is threatened by the Putin regime, and therefore our support for Ukraine is absolute,” said Prime Minister Sanchez. “Putin has clearly not achieved his goals because we, the allies, have shown that our support is unwavering.”

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