Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) seemed visibly satisfied with the results of the NATO summit in Madrid – and also with the reaction of the allies to his “turning point” policy. The “substantial German contributions” were “appreciated very positively” at the meeting, said the SPD politician in a press conference on Thursday. Previously, he had been criticized for weeks by parts of the alliance and in the German debate as a procrastinator.
When increasing their defense budgets, many partners have based their decisions on the German special fund for the Bundeswehr of 100 billion euros, said the head of government. The German concept of a combat brigade for Lithuania in an effort to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank against Russia also set standards.
It almost sounded as if the chancellor saw the demand of SPD leader Lars Klingbeil, according to which Germany had to be a “leading power”, as fulfilled by his own actions.
With regard to NATO’s new strategic concept, Scholz said: “The changed view of Moscow is new.” In the previous concept from 2010, Russia was still described as a possible strategic partner. Now Vladimir Putin’s country is classified “as the greatest and most imminent threat to the peace and security of the Allies and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region”.
“We live in a dangerous world, we live in an unpredictable world in which the Cold War continues in Europe,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. At the same time, he pointed out that the alliance’s “core responsibility” was to avoid an escalation in relations with Russia. Should there be a military confrontation with Russia, the world will see “suffering, death and destruction” on a scale worse than the atrocities and destruction of the war in Ukraine. That is why NATO supports Ukraine permanently, but is not part of the war.
The alliance, which is regionally limited according to its name (“North Atlantic Pact”), also wants to reposition itself vis-à-vis China. Twelve years ago, the Asian superpower was not even mentioned in the strategic concept. Now it says: China’s goals and its policy of coercion pose “challenges to our interests, our security and our values”. In addition, China’s closer ties to Russia contradict Western interests. NATO accuses Nato China of attacking its members with “malicious hybrid and cyber operations and its confrontational rhetoric.”
The US and UK originally wanted to label China a “risk” or even a “danger”. However, taking into account the economic relations of countries such as Germany and France with China, the wording was weakened. Stoltenberg said China and Russia want to “continue to gain political ground” in the Global South. NATO wants to counteract this by stepping up its efforts to protect the climate and by better coordinating itself to enable grain deliveries from Ukraine, which is blocked by Russia.
The day before, the 30 allies had unanimously decided to include the previously neutral Scandinavian countries of Finland and Sweden. Here, too, Germany should lead the way according to Scholz. The chancellor announced that the ratification of accession would begin this week and be completed “very quickly”.
In a casual tone, the SPD politician rejected Putin’s accusation that NATO had “imperial ambitions”. “That’s pretty ridiculous,” he said. “In fact, it’s Putin who has made imperialism the target of his policies.” NATO is a defensive alliance. On a trip abroad, the Russian President declared that NATO was trying to assert its “supremacy” through the Ukraine conflict.
With regard to Putin’s reaction to the accession of Finland and Sweden, Scholz was relaxed. The alliance can assume that it “does not contribute to an increase in tensions”. Putin has obviously come to terms with it. Without going into detail, he promised the new members “assistance” during the transition phase until the contribution became valid under international law.
At the request of host Spain, the deliberations on Thursday also dealt with the dangers emanating from the regions south of NATO. The new strategic concept also identifies terrorism as a major threat to common security. Meanwhile, the UN accused Spain and Morocco of “unreasonable use of force” over the deaths at the border fence in the Spanish exclave of Melilla. The deaths of dozens of people are “unacceptable” and must be “investigated,” a spokesman said.
The death of the migrants after a mass rush to the Melilla border fence had caused international outrage. Around 2,000 migrants tried to cross the border on Friday. At least 23 migrants were killed.
Stoltenberg announced that next year’s NATO summit will be held in Lithuania, one of the Baltic states that feel particularly threatened. This decision is also intended to send a signal of military readiness to Russia.