NATO pledges to help Baltics and Ukraine, urges Turkey to let Nordics in

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  • Three-day NATO Summit in Madrid; Biden will be present
  • Turkey’s veto over Sweden and Finland’s demand is a big deal
  • NATO agrees on new defenses for the Baltic region
  • Ukraine aid program aims for longer-term support

MADRID, June 27 (Reuters) – NATO leaders will urge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift his veto on Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance when they meet for a summit on Tuesday three days, as the West strives to send Russia and China a signal of determination.

Taking place in the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Madrid rally comes at a pivotal moment for the transatlantic bond after setbacks in Afghanistan and internal divisiveness during the era of former US President Donald Trump, which threatened to withdraw Washington from the nuclear alliance. .

Negotiations in an often fractious organization are still ongoing, diplomats said, but leaders also hope to agree to provide more military aid to Ukraine, increase joint defense spending, cement a new resolve to fight China’s military buildup and put more troops on standby. by to defend the Baltic.

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Spain, whose king will host a dinner for leaders, is also pushing for NATO to focus more on the southern flank to tackle migration and militant groups in Africa’s Sahel region.

Leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are expected to attend part of the summit, as part of a broader US strategy for a stronger Western presence in the Indo- peaceful to counter China.

“We will do more to ensure that we can defend every inch of Allied territory, at all times and against any threat,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech last week.

Although British and American officials have advised against a Baltic request for permanent multinational forces in the region, the summit is likely to agree on a compromise of promising rapid reinforcements. Read more

Germany has already said it will put more troops ready to defend Lithuania if Russia seeks to seize NATO territory and Britain should do the same for Estonia, while Latvia looks to Canada to commit more troops.

VETO TO TURKEY

NATO – created in 1949 to counter the Soviet threat – has no treaty obligation to defend Ukraine, as the former Soviet republic is not a member of NATO.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion sparked a geopolitical shift as once-neutral Finland and Sweden seek to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Ukraine is officially become a candidate for membership of the European Union.

If accepted, Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership would lead to the enlargement of the alliance that the Russian leader aimed to prevent.

“I think it sends an important message to Putin. And I think it would strengthen the alliance considerably,” US Senator Angus King said of Finland and Sweden, after a trip to Finland, Latvia and in Turkey.

However, Turkey is also testing that unity, angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes in Ankara.

A Turkish government official involved in talks between the three countries and NATO’s Stoltenberg told Reuters it would be difficult to reach an agreement at the summit, saying Sweden and Finland must first meet the Turkish concerns.

“There have been meetings, but unfortunately the measures we expected are not being taken,” the official said.

Sweden has set up a process of continuous consultations, diplomats said. But two senior NATO diplomats said the dispute was less about technical benchmarks and more about politics.

Erdogan’s stance has proven popular at home ahead of the June 2023 presidential election as he seeks to challenge US and European priorities. In recent weeks, he has threatened new military operations in northern Syria, stoked tensions with NATO member Greece, and refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over the war in Syria. Ukraine.

“I think there’s almost no chance that this issue will be resolved at the Madrid summit,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish analyst at the Washington Institute, a US think tank.

US President Joe Biden could hold a meeting with Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit to get things done with Finland and Sweden, whose leaders will be in Madrid.

But Cagaptay added that Erdogan could try to use the situation to bolster his popularity and call a possible snap election in November ahead of the official vote in June 2023.

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Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Andrea Shalal and Belen Carreno in Madrid and Jonathan Spicer and Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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