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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese during today's Nato summit in Madrid PA

Nato leaders denounce Russia's 'appalling cruelty' in Ukraine as Moscow threatens Norway

The dispute comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine takes centre stage at a Nato summit in Madrid.

LAST UPDATE | 29 Jun 2022

NATO LEADERS HAVE decried Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine and said Moscow now posed a “direct threat” to the Western alliance.

“Russia’s appalling cruelty has caused immense human suffering and massive displacements, disproportionately affecting women and children”, a declaration from a summit in Madrid said.

Nato leaders have funnelled billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine and faced appeals from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for more artillery.

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg announced a new joint package of non-lethal support including secure communications equipment and anti-drone systems.

Four months after Russia’s invasion, upending the European security landscape, more than 40 leaders gathered for what Stoltenberg called a “pivotal summit” for the alliance’s future.

Its announcement for more support for Ukraine came hours following Moscow accusing Norway of blocking access to the Svalbard archipelago and threatening retaliation.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it summoned the Norwgian ambassador’s deputy, the charge d’affaires, to answer the allegations.

“We demanded that the Norwegian side resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the Russian foreign ministry said today.

“We indicated that unfriendly actions against Russia will inevitably lead to appropriate retaliatory measures.”

Nato’s assistance to Ukraine will also extend to training Ukrainian forces to pivot to more modern Western weapons over the longer term.

“Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” Stoltenberg said.

The war in Ukraine has shaken the 30-nation alliance and forced it into the biggest overhaul of its defences since the end of the Cold War.

The summit agreed a new guiding blueprint for NATO that said Russia “is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area”.

“We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the document, updated for the first time since 2010, said.

In a bid to counter the menace from Russia, leaders agreed to bolster their forces in eastern Europe.

“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank,” the summit statement said.

The UK’s Boris Johnson urged allies to boost their defence spending in response to Russia’s actions in Europe at today’s summit.

Ukraine welcomed decisions by NATO to pledge more support to Kyiv as it faces an invasion of Russian troops and to invite Finland and Sweden to join the US-led alliance.

“Today in Madrid, NATO proved it can take difficult but essential decisions. We welcome a clear-eyed stance on Russia, as well as the accession for Finland and Sweden,”Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

“An equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help protect the Euro-Atlantic security and stability.” 

Finland and Sweden have been formally invited to join the alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition.

Archipelago dispute 

In its clash with Oslo, Russia’s foreign ministry said Norway’s restrictions disrupted the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and a Russian coal mining settlement there.

Vehicles carrying food and medical supplies to Spitsbergen have been stuck on the border, the ministry said.

Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century.

Russia insists on calling the archipelago Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard, the official name since shortly after the treaty handing them to Norway was signed in 1920.

Turkey drops opposition 

Beyond Ukraine, the summit today will see a revamp of Nato’s strategic concept – which outlines its main security tasks, but has not been revised since 2010 – to mention challenges posed by China for the first time.

Finland and Sweden will be invited to join the alliance at the summit after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday lifted his opposition following crunch talks with the leaders of the two Nordic countries in Madrid.

Erdogan had stubbornly refused to back the applications from the Nordic pair – lodged in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine – despite pressure for a change of course from his Nato allies.

But Erdogan’s office said it had agreed to support them as Ankara had “got what it wanted”.

Ankara had accused Finland, and especially Sweden, of offering a safe haven to Kurdish militants who have been waging decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

US President Joe Biden congratulated Turkey, Finland and Sweden on reaching an agreement.

“As we begin this historic Nato summit in Madrid, our alliance is stronger, more united and more resolute than ever,” he said in a statement.

But it will still take months for Finland and Sweden to officially join Nato, as their entry into the alliance needs to be ratified by the parliaments of the 30 member states.

- © AFP 2022.

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