BARCELONA ( Associated Press) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that next month’s summit in Madrid will be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine in its far east.
During his speech at a gala held in Madrid to commemorate Spain’s 40 years as a member of NATO, Stoltenberg said that he hoped to receive Sweden and Finland during the summit that will host the Spanish capital on June 29 and 30.
“At the Madrid summit we will chart the path to follow in the next decade,” said Stoltenberg. “We will also be joined by Finland and Sweden, who have just submitted landmark applications to join our alliance. The Madrid summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm our NATO values”.
However, the leader of the 30-member military alliance failed to mention Turkey’s key reluctance to open the gates to Sweden and Finland. Turkey, which has the second-largest military in NATO behind the United States, has cited the two Nordic countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militiamen, who Turkey considers terrorists, as a reason for rejecting its application. Unanimous support is needed to add new members.
On Sunday, when Stoltenberg held a private session with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to prepare for the summit, he expressed confidence that Turkey can be convinced to stop opposing the Scandinavian countries’ entry.
“Turkey, an important ally, has expressed its concerns and we have to do what we always do because our decisions are made by consensus,” he told Spanish state broadcaster TVE.
The King of Spain, Felipe VI, and Sánchez presided over the event at the Royal Theater in Madrid, which was attended by Stoltenberg and four former NATO Secretary Generals and three former Presidents of the Spanish Government.
Next month’s summit will redefine NATO’s strategic priorities for the coming decade, which Stoltenberg says include Chinese ambitions, the rise of rogue states, terrorism and climate change, but its immediate focus will be on how to continue to support Ukraine and deter any new aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Spain became the 16th member of NATO on May 30, 1982. Its entry marked a milestone in Spain’s return to the international political order after the end of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship with his death in 1975. Accession of the country to NATO came just a year after its fledgling democracy survived a failed military coup. Spain would later join the European Union in 1986.
Another NATO summit held in Spain in 1997 included an invitation to several former members of the Soviet bloc—Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic—to join an alliance they had previously opposed.
“Next month, Madrid will host another historic summit,” Stoltenberg added. “This time, however, the context is very different, not a new burst of freedom, but a cold burst of conflict.”
Spain helps Ukraine with humanitarian aid and military material. The Spanish army has been 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, supporting Ukraine” is an absolute necessity, said Prime Minister Sánchez. “For Putin it is clear that he is not going to achieve his objectives, because the allies have shown that our support for Ukraine is unwavering.”