Biden heads to NATO summit on support for Ukraine, alliance strategy

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BRUSSELS — President Biden and other NATO heads of state and government will gather in Madrid on Tuesday for a three-day summit focused on urgent support for Ukraine as well as the alliance’s longer-term strategy.

The meeting comes a day after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the number of alliance forces kept at a high readiness level will increase sharply — to more than 300,000 troops from 40,000 — in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The expansion is part of what Stoltenberg called the “biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”

In Madrid, the world will get a better sense of how the overhaul might look. NATO leaders and officials will discuss a more responsive force model, debate plans to bolster NATO’s eastern flank and release a new strategy document, diplomats said. Allies are also expected to announce additional financial and military support for Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said at a news conference Monday that the summit will be “transformative.” He alluded to a “new security reality” and “a fundamental shift in NATO’s deterrence and defense.”

In addition to addressing the threats from Russia, those gathered will consider the security implications of China’s rise. NATO’s new strategy document will for the first time outline the alliance’s view on the challenges that Beijing poses to “our security, interests and values.” as Stoltenberg put it. Diplomats said the exact language to be used is still being debated.

In another first, the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan will attend the summit. Also participating will be Sweden and Finland, close NATO partners who remained officially militarily nonaligned until Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine pushed them ever-closer to the alliance. Stockholm and Helsinki applied to join the alliance last month, only to have Turkey block the start of the accession process citing opposition to their stance on Kurdish separatist groups.

Weeks of diplomacy have yet to resolve that standoff, though NATO officials and diplomats insist they are confident things will ultimately move forward. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet in Madrid, according to Finnish officials.

The summit will be closely watched not only for news on money and weapons to Ukraine, but as a sign of Western resolve as the war enters its fifth month.

Russia’s full-scale invasion has reinvigorated transatlantic ties in many ways, with U.S. and European allies working closely on sanctions and military support for Ukraine. But with every passing month, key issues get more complicated. The question of if and how to pursue a peace deal, for instance, is becoming divisive within the alliance.

Retired U.S….

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