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NATO and the new Iron Curtain

Spain | NATO Summit in Madrid Joe Biden

The alliance is facing a new threat from Russia but believes it is prepared – according to the message of the NATO summit in Madrid. Members also pledge to continue supporting Ukraine.

“We live in a dangerous world,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, summing up the security situation after the two-day summit in Madrid. He called the decision to massively reinforce mission-ready alliance troops by the summer of next year the right answer. We are ready to protect all member states, including Finland and Sweden during the admission process.

Both countries are due to be formally invited as new members of NATO early next week after decades of neutrality. And for those on the alliance’s eastern border who are worried – like the Baltic countries – US President Joe Biden once again reiterated the promise: “We will defend every inch of NATO territory”.

Cold War Doctrine

“With its aggressive policies, Russia is once again a threat to Europe and to the Alliance,” confirmed Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Russia’s attack shattered the international peace order and changed the global political situation. NATO is drawing the right conclusions from this situation. After more than a decade, she once again describes Russia as the most serious threat to common security in her strategic concept.

From this follows, according to the Federal Chancellor, that the eastern flank of NATO must be secured immediately, to which Germany will contribute with 3,000 soldiers stationed in Lithuania.

Scholz also announced the provision of a 15,000-man division with around 60 aircraft and 20 ships, which should be kept permanently available for NATO operations. In Rostock he wants to set up a maritime regional command to help secure the Baltic Sea. The Bundeswehr has already increased airspace surveillance on NATO’s eastern borders.

The German chancellor called Vladimir Putin’s accusation that NATO was showing “imperialist ambitions” in Madrid “pretty ridiculous.” It is Putin himself who “has made imperialism the goal of his policies” and claims that neighboring countries belong to Russia.

When asked about a possible end to the war, Scholz was as helpless as all western heads of government: “No one is in Putin’s head” or knows his advisors. But he wants to convince Putin that “it’s not working out with Ukraine, that he should stop.”

Weapons for Ukraine ‘as long as it lasts’

“The world has changed a lot and NATO is changing with it,” said US President Joe Biden. And when asked by journalists whether the Allies really wanted to hold their own to the end, he confirmed: “We will support them as long as it takes. Look at the effect in Russia so far,” the economy had fallen back by 15 years. “They can no longer service their debts,” said Biden, “they are paying a high price. We remain with Ukraine”.

Biden also announced the continuation of the extensive US arms deliveries to Ukraine: in the next few days he will send anti-aircraft systems, artillery, and ammunition for the delivered multiple rocket launchers Himar (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) and other equipment worth $800 million.

Ukraine Donetsk | Ukrainian units fire from an M777 howitzer
Donetsk region: Ukrainian units fire from US-supplied M777 howitzer

Donetsk region: Ukrainian units fire from US-supplied M777 howitzer

The US remains the largest supplier, but Germany and the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain, and even France also announced further deliveries to Ukraine. President Emmanuel Macron said 12 Caesar artillery pieces are already on-site, with six more to follow. And host country Spain is considering the previously controversial delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

Lavrov: “New Iron Curtain”

During Joe Biden’s press conference in Madrid, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reacted to the decisions of the NATO summit. He sees a new iron curtain falling between the West and Russia and advises NATO “to be careful and not to pinch anything”. Europe and Washington are not interested in understanding Russian interests, Lavrov said.

Previously, President Putin had said on the forthcoming NATO accession of Finland and Sweden: “If Finland and Sweden want to join, they can join”. However, if military units and infrastructure were deployed there, the same threat would be created for these areas as they were for Russia.

Many participants in Madrid also called the summit a “historic meeting” because of the pending accession of Finland and Sweden. On the first evening, it was initially possible to clear up the objections of Turkish President Recep Erdogan. He concluded an agreement with Stockholm and Helsinki on how to deal with Kurds in exile there.

US fighter jets for Ankara

The compromise came about because the US also promised Turkey an incentive in the form of F16 fighter jets, which Erdogan has wanted for his army for a long time. The American side denies the connection, but the simultaneity of events indicates the opposite. At a bilateral meeting with Erdogan in Madrid, President Biden promised the delivery of the jets while the agreement between the accession countries and Turkey was being signed.

At the press conference after the end of the summit, however, Erdogan thwarted hopes that the two candidates would be admitted without any problems. Sweden and Finland would first have to fulfill their promises and initiate legislative changes, he demanded.

Spain NATO Summit in Madrid - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan was surprised with new demands for his approval of Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Erdogan also claimed Sweden had promised to extradite 73 people he classifies as “terrorists”. However, none of this is in the agreement between the three countries. On Wednesday, a government representative initially demanded the extradition of 33 Kurds to Turkey. The President now seems to have increased the number.

“The most important thing is that the promises are kept. In the near future we will monitor how far the agreement is being implemented and act accordingly,” said Erdogan. Finally, he added an open threat: “Sweden and Finland should fulfill their obligations […] But if they don’t, there is no question that I will send the ratification (of accession) to Parliament”.

The conflict does not appear to have been finally resolved. Sweden had never promised to extradite Kurds on Turkish lists, nor is the government in Stockholm legally able to do so. It is unclear whether Erdogan was just putting on a domestic political show in Madrid or whether he actually wants to block Finland and Sweden from joining.

Then only Joe Biden’s reference to the pending approval in the American Congress for the delivery of the F16 fighter jets to Turkey helps. Ultimately, only the big brother in Washington can resolve this dispute between NATO and Ankara.

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