NATO looks forward to ‘historic’ Madrid summit with Sweden, Finland

BARCELONA, Spain — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that a summit in Madrid next month would be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine on its eastern fringes.

Stoltenberg, speaking at a gala in Madrid celebrating Spain’s 40th NATO membership, said he was looking forward to welcoming Sweden and Finland at the summit in the Spanish capital on June 29-30.

“At the Madrid summit, we will chart the way forward for the next decade,” Stoltenberg said. “We will also be joined by Finland and Sweden, who have just made their historic application to join our alliance. The Madrid summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm our NATO values.”

But the leaders of the 30-member coalition did not address Turkey’s reluctance to open its doors to Sweden and Finland. Turkey, which has NATO’s second-largest military force after the United States, said the Nordic country allegedly supported Kurdish militants, which Turkey sees as a reason for rejecting its application. Adding new members requires unanimous support.

King Felipe VI of Spain and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hosted the event at Madrid’s Teatro Real, which was attended by Stoltenberg, four former NATO secretaries and three former Spanish prime ministers.

Next month’s summit will redefine NATO’s strategic priorities for the next decade, Stoltenberg said, including China’s ambitions, the rise of anti-democratic states, terrorism and climate change. But its immediate focus will be on how to continue to support Ukraine and deter any further aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PHOTOS: NATO looks forward to ‘historic’ Madrid summit with Sweden, Finland

Spain became the 16th member of NATO on May 30, 1982. Its inclusion marks a milestone in Spain’s return to the international political order following the end of the dictatorship under General Francisco Franco’s death in 1975. The country joined NATO just a year after its fledgling democracy survived a failed military coup. Spain later joined the EU in 1986.

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

“Next month Madrid will host another historic summit,” Stoltenberg said. “However, this time the context is very different, not the outbreak of new freedoms, but the outbreak of ruthless conflict.”

Spain is sending humanitarian aid and military equipment to Ukraine. In addition to naval operations, its troops are deployed in NATO missions in Turkey, Latvia and Iraq.

“Today our security is threatened by the Putin regime, so our support for Ukraine is absolute,” Prime Minister Sanchez said. “Putin has clearly failed to achieve his goals because our allies have shown that our support is unbreakable.”

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