NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to the press as he arrives for the NATO summit at the Ifema congress centre in Madrid, on June 29, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

NATO has promised Ukraine further support in defending against the Russian invasion. The 30 member states had agreed on a comprehensive package, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday at the alliance’s summit in Madrid.

These included secure communications, fuel, medical supplies, body armor and equipment to counter mines, chemical and biological threats. Hundreds of portable drone defense systems are also part of the package.

“In the longer term, we will support Ukraine in converting Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO equipment,” Stoltenberg said. “Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes. Allies will continue to provide extensive military and financial assistance.”

Stoltenberg raised serious allegations against Russian President Vladimir Putin. “President Putin’s war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and triggered the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II,” he said. “NATO has responded with strength and unity.”

In addition, the NATO countries decided to significantly strengthen the eastern flank. Furthermore, the heads of state and government agreed on a new armed forces model at the summit in Madrid on Wednesday, as the German Press Agency learned from alliance circles.

It envisages keeping more than 300,000 soldiers on high operational readiness in the future. The previous NATO rapid reaction force NRF is to be replaced by the new armed forces model. It only has a size of around 40,000 soldiers.

According to Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, the Bundeswehr’s contribution to the new concept will be at least one large unit. “Germany is ready to make its contribution. We have already announced that we are ready to provide a division, i.e. 15,000 soldiers, and of course the corresponding material,” said the SPD politician on Tuesday evening.

According to the concept approved on Wednesday, the existing multinational NATO battlegroups on the eastern flank are to be expanded to brigade level. For example, the unit in Lithuania currently has 1,600 soldiers. A brigade usually consists of around 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. Germany has already announced that it wants to lead the Combat Troops Brigade in Lithuania.

In peacetime, the more than 300,000 rapid reaction forces in the future should generally be under national command, but could then be requested by the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe (Saceur) in an emergency. The troops would also be given fixed times for operational readiness.

It is being discussed that some units should be ready for laying within 10 days at most, others in 30 or 50 days. Details for emergencies are to be specified in new regional defense plans, which should be ready next year.

NATO has also officially started the process of admitting Finland and Sweden. According to information from the German Press Agency, all heads of state and government of the 30 member states approved the plans at the summit meeting in Madrid on Wednesday.

Turkey had only given up its blockade against Finland and Sweden joining NATO the night before – in exchange for concessions from the Nordic countries. Turkey is demanding the extradition of 33 “terrorist” suspects from Sweden and Finland. The demand is based on the agreement that Ankara signed with the two Nordic countries, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Wednesday, according to the Turkish television channel NTV.

However, it will probably be a few months before Finland and Sweden are actually members of the alliance. According to current plans, the accession protocols are to be signed next Tuesday. After that, they still have to be ratified by the member states. It is estimated that it could take six to eight months for all 30 Allies to do this. In Germany, the Bundestag must also agree to this.

Finland and Sweden had applied for NATO membership on May 18 under the impression of the Russian war against Ukraine.

However, Turkey blocked the accession process for weeks, citing Sweden and Finland’s alleged support of “terrorist organizations” such as the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK, the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG and the Gülen movement as a reason – these allegations are rejected in Stockholm and Helsinki. Turkey also demanded the extradition of several people who are suspected of being terrorists in Turkey.

The breakthrough came on Tuesday shortly before the summit began when Stoltenberg met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. In a joint statement, the two Nordic countries pledged to address several of Turkey’s demands.

Sweden and Finland, among others, pledged that there would be no arms embargoes against Turkey. They also promised decisive action against terrorism and the PKK. Turkish extradition requests by terrorist suspects should also be examined quickly.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other heads of state and government welcomed the planned NATO expansion. That is “something that is very, very important to us,” said the Chancellor on Wednesday. “Both countries are a very good fit for our alliance.” US President Joe Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Putin wanted the Finnishization of Europe. He will get the Natoization of Europe.” Finland was officially neutral during the Cold War.

Stoltenberg emphasized: “President Putin did not succeed in shooting NATO’s door. He gets the opposite of what he wanted.”