NATO leaders gather in Madrid for historic summit

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency (AA)

Leaders of the world’s largest defence alliance will convene in Madrid today for the NATO 2022 summit.

The summit will begin on June 28 with a dinner hosted by King Felipe VI of Spain for leaders. Ukraine and Russia will be discussed in the first session on June 29. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, will also participate in this session and address the leaders via video conference.

On the same day, in the afternoon session, the development of partnership relations with NATO’s closest partners will be discussed. The leaders of the Asia-Pacific partners Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, as well as Sweden, Finland, and Georgia, will attend this meeting. The presidents of the EU Commission and the European Council will also attend the meeting.

On the evening of June 29, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain will host an informal dinner for the leaders of the 27 EU countries, as well as NATO countries.

On the final day of the summit, June 30, the southern flank and the challenges in this region will be discussed. In this context, many topics, including the fight against terrorism and migration, will be discussed.

Within the scope of the Madrid Summit, the foreign and defence ministers of the allied countries will also hold separate meetings. Mauritania and Jordan will also be represented at the meeting of foreign ministers, which will review the difficulties in the south. The Balkans will be discussed during the meeting of defence ministers, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be represented at this meeting.

This year’s NATO Summit has historical significance in multiple ways. Many of these are linked to Russia, which started a war on Ukraine on February 24.

Prominent topics at the summit will be Sweden and Finland’s membership application and Türkiye’s security concerns, the adoption of the new “Strategic Concept” document that will determine how NATO will respond to the challenges in the coming years, the strengthening of the eastern flank of the alliance, and the comprehensive military aid package for Ukraine.

Sweden and Finland

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership on May 18, perceiving Russia as a rising threat after the Ukraine offensive. However, Türkiye has security concerns regarding the membership of the two countries.

Türkiye wants the terrorist organisations such as PKK/YPG, DHKP-C and FETO in these countries to be eliminated, their activities such as fundraising, recruitment and propaganda to be ended, and the arms embargo and restrictions against Türkiye to be lifted in order for these countries to join NATO.

Negotiations to address Türkiye’s concerns have not yet yielded results. Türkiye does not see the Madrid Summit as a deadline or turning point and emphasises that the negotiations will continue. Türkiye seeks firm commitments and concrete steps from Sweden and Finland. In this context, there are documents to be signed and negotiated.

Sweden and Finland’s applications are anticipated to be discussed at the NATO Summit and President Erdoğan’s meetings.

The leaders of the two countries will go to Madrid for the NATO Summit, but it is envisaged that they will only attend the dinner that the host, Spain, will throw for the leaders on the first day of the summit’s agenda.

Renewal of the Strategic Concept

One of the historical developments at the Madrid summit is the renewal of the Strategic Concept document, which designates the security challenges that NATO faces and outlines the political and military responses to them.

The Strategic Concept was last adopted at the 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Since then, however, a great deal has changed for NATO, both politically and in terms of European security.

Relations with Russia form the basis of the shift. Because Russia was considered a partner of NATO in the Strategic Concept document of 2010. Former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev attended the summit in Lisbon, and Russia was described as a “strategic partner” of NATO.

At the time, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Medvedev met to convey a message of cooperation, emphasising that the period of tension was a thing of the past. It was even stated that NATO and Russia would collaborate to develop a missile defence system.

The situation has changed a lot in the past few years. NATO and Russia now view each other as the main threat.

Another addition to the Strategic Concept will be China. China was not mentioned at all in the 2010 document. However, since the middle of the 2010s, the Western world, particularly the US, has shifted its focus to the east and is monitoring China more closely.

NATO does not see China as an enemy. However, the rise of China and the acceleration of military investments by the Beijing administration is one of NATO’s primary concerns.

NATO is concerned about the possibility of China developing its nuclear capacity, investing in essential technologies and controlling critical infrastructures in Europe, such as the internet.

It is anticipated that China will be addressed at the summit, highlighting that it is a challenge to NATO’s interests and pointing out the necessity for NATO to take specific steps against China in a competitive world.

To this end, NATO is trying to strengthen regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. In this context, the leaders of Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand have also been invited to Madrid. The leaders of these countries will be attending a NATO summit for the first time.

A comprehensive military aid package for Ukraine

A comprehensive military aid package for Ukraine will also be on the agenda for NATO leaders at the Madrid Summit.

NATO has provided Ukraine with training, weapons, and ammunition since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. Since the start of the Russian offensive in February, military, humanitarian and financial support from NATO countries has increased. To date, billions of dollars in aid have been sent to Ukraine.

However, one of Ukraine’s challenges in its war with Russia is that a substantial portion of its military inventory consists of weapons and equipment from the Soviet era.

NATO means to replace Ukraine’s Soviet-era equipment with modern Western equipment. The aim here is to increase Ukraine’s defence capabilities as well as to increase its interoperability with NATO.

Strengthening the eastern flank

NATO leaders will also discuss strengthening the alliance, its long-term status and capacity, particularly in the east, which was reinforced after Russia declared war on Ukraine.

Before 2014, NATO had no intention of stationing combat troops on its eastern flank. In response to the Russian threat posed by Crimea’s illegitimate annexation in 2014, NATO began strengthening its eastern flank.

For this purpose, a total of 4 battlegroups were stationed in the Baltic countries and Poland. However, this number increased to 8 after the outbreak of the war in February. Four additional multinational battlegroups were deployed in Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

After the Russian offensive, the NATO Response Force, a force of approximately 40,000 people, was mobilised for the first time in the organisation’s history. On the eastern flank, there are currently 40,000 soldiers under direct NATO command, supported by air and naval elements. Additionally, the US has bolstered its ranks in Europe from 70,000 to 100,000.

In addition, it is expected that plans to strengthen the eastern flank will be adopted at the summit. These plans include increasing supplies such as heavy weapons, ammunition, and fuel.

Establishing designated forces for a potential deployment is also part of the plans. These troops will be stationed in their own countries and will conduct training and exercises in their own countries. They will be required to be very familiar with the terrain, climate, and other conditions of the region to which they will be assigned if needed.

In addition to these issues, the Madrid Summit will evaluate burden sharing, including allies’ commitment to spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence, decisions on joint funds and resources, and an increase in the military and civilian budgets.

-Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye/Directorate of Communication

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