NATO leaders agreed to a “fundamental shift in our deterrence and defence” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, marking a return to the kind of military deployments last seen during the Cold War.
On the first day of their summit in Madrid on June 29, leaders of the security alliance agreed to a sharp increase in troop deployments on its eastern flank facing Russia, increased aid to Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression and a new strategic concept that explicitly names Russia as “the most important and direct threat” to the alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also reiterated that “NATO’s door remains open” for Ukraine’s possible membership.
“The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has broken the peace and seriously altered our security environment,” Stoltenberg said in his opening speech. “We cannot rule out the possibility of an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the allies,” he added.
At the summit, NATO leaders agreed to increase the number of high-readiness alliance troops from 40,000 to 300,000. These designated forces can be used to reinforce states in an emergency. individuals on its eastern flank, an area for which it is developing a new defense plan.
“It’s the first time since the Cold War that we’ve had these kinds of plans with preassigned forces,” Stoltenberg said.
As part of this strategy, US President Joe Biden announced a major increase in US military presence in Europe “to defend every inch of Allied territory”.
“At a time when [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin broke the peace in Europe and attacked the very principles of the rules-based order, the United States and our allies are stepping up,” Biden said. “The actions we take at this summit will further increase our collective strength.”
Biden announced on June 29 that the United States 5e The corps will establish a permanent headquarters in Poland – the first permanent NATO base there, fulfilling a long-standing Polish request.
“This significantly strengthens our security and is an additional guarantee in the current very difficult situation,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in Madrid.
The United States will also send 5,000 additional troops to Romania. Additional US forces are also being sent to Western Europe. There are currently over 100,000 American soldiers in Europe, 20,000 more since the invasion of Ukraine.
Britain announced it would commit 1,000 troops from its 2,000 existing troops in Estonia, although they are based in the UK. She will also assign one of her new aircraft carriers to the defense of the eastern flank.
Germany will appoint a brigade for the defense of Lithuania, with a permanent headquarters, and a total division (15,000 men) for the high-readiness forces, as well as some 65 aircraft and 20 ships.
However, most of these rapid reaction forces will be based in NATO home countries and members have yet to specify which of their forces will be assigned to NATO command.
“The plan is to have this in place by next year. I’m confident that will happen,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.
NATO also agreed to station more troops in the eastern flank states, bringing each country’s battlegroups up to brigade level (more than doubling each force to around 5,000 soldiers), although the leaders of the Baltic states hoped for more.
The United States and other NATO states will increase the size of their rotational deployments in the Baltic states to address fears expressed by Baltic leaders that they could be quickly overrun by a Russian invasion. They fear it will devastate their country – just as Ukraine is currently suffering – and could cut them off from the rest of NATO, making any response much more difficult.
NATO will also pre-position more equipment and supplies on the eastern flank, strengthen forward deployed capabilities such as air defense and strengthen command and control.
NATO’s tougher stance was also bolstered by Turkey’s deal with Sweden and Finland on the eve of the summit, which paves the way for the two Nordic countries to quickly join the alliance.
Ukraine will receive longer-term aid from NATO to strengthen its defense against Russia. “Ukraine can count on us. As long as it takes,” Stoltenberg said. “A strong and independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area,” he added.
NATO has established a comprehensive assistance program for Ukraine, which includes secure communications, fuel, medical supplies and body armor, equipment to counter mines and chemical and biological threats , as well as hundreds of portable anti-drone systems.
“In the longer term, we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO equipment,” Stoltenberg said, adding that this will boost interoperability and further strengthen its capabilities. defense and security institutions.
President Volodomyr Zelenskiy addressed the meeting via video to criticize the alliance’s current aid and plead for more weapons. Zelenskiy told NATO leaders that Ukraine’s fight is Europe’s fight.
“[Russia] wants to absorb city after city in Europe, which the Russian rulers regard as their property and not as independent states. This is Russia’s real objective. The question is – who is next for Russia? Moldova? The Baltic countries? Poland? The answer is all,” he said.
Stoltenberg said the allies are preparing for a long war. “Wars are unpredictable, but we have to be prepared for the long term. And that was the clear message for all of us in President Zelenskiy’s room,” he told a news conference.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba later tweeted: “Today in Madrid, NATO proved that it can take difficult but essential decisions. We welcome a lucid position on Russia, as well as the accession of Finland and Sweden. An equally strong and active stance on Ukraine will help protect Euro-Atlantic security and stability.
The Alliance’s new Strategic Concept – last updated in 2010 – sets out the Alliance’s priorities, core tasks and approaches for the next decade. He said Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has broken the peace and seriously damaged NATO’s security environment.
“In light of its hostile policies and actions, we cannot consider the Russian Federation as our partner. However, we remain willing to maintain open communication channels with Moscow to manage and mitigate risk, prevent escalation and increase transparency,” the strategic concept reads. “Any change in our relationship depends on the Russian Federation stopping its aggressive behavior and fully respecting international law.”
Stoltenberg told a press conference that Russia had walked away from NATO’s attempt to build a partnership and that relations were now the worst since the Cold War. “[Ukraine] made it impossible for us to have the kind of partnership and engagement with Russia that we have worked for for so long.”
China is also highlighted as a challenge to NATO for the first time. “We are seeing a deepening of the strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing,” Stoltenberg told a news conference. “China is not our adversary but we have to be serious about the challenge it represents.”
The strategic concept reaffirms Ukraine’s eventual ambition to join NATO. “We reaffirm the decision we took at the Bucharest summit in 2008 and all subsequent decisions regarding Georgia and Ukraine,” the document said. NATO will also develop its partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina and strengthen its support for Moldova.
The new strategic concept is supposed to be supported by increased spending by NATO countries. Nine allies now meet – or exceed – NATO’s defense spending target of 2% of GDP, and 19 have clear plans to reach it by 2024.
“Two percent is increasingly seen as a floor, not a ceiling,” Stoltenberg said.