NATO leaders formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the military alliance, paving the way for reshaping European defense by lengthening its border with Russia.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” according to summit conclusions agreed by NATO leaders in Madrid after weeks of stalling by Turkey. “The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the alliance, including during the accession process.”
NATO membership for the two previously neutral countries would mark a significant shift in the European security landscape after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and offer more protection to the exposed Baltic countries on the alliance’s eastern frontier. The path to membership includes the need for ratification from NATO members’ parliaments.
The leaders welcomed a memorandum agreed by Turkey, Sweden and Finland late Tuesday that led to Ankara lifting its block on the countries’ bids to join. Turkey had stalled the process with concerns the two Nordic nations didn’t do enough to tackle Kurdish groups it views as terrorists.
Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization warned they face “systemic competition” from China, which challenges the alliance’s “interests, security, and values and seek to undermine the rules-based international order.”
They also said Russia was “the most significant and direct threat” to allies’ security, and accused it of intentionally worsening a food and energy crisis. They reiterated calls for Russia to immediately stop its war in Ukraine.
In a new Strategic Concept document setting out long-term strategic guidelines, the leaders highlighted ties between China and Russia. “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” the document said.
The leaders are planning to overhaul and boost the alliance’s defenses in the face of Russian aggression in Europe, including establishing a new force model that would put about 300 000 troops on high alert to deal with any future threats.