The most important result is already before the summit. Turkey gives up resistance, Sweden and Finland will soon become NATO members number 31 and 32 – they give up their neutral role to better protect themselves against Russia. The main enemy will be clearly identified at the Madrid summit: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This ties in with the clear announcements made by the G7 countries at the summit in Schloss Elmau that they would provide additional billions in aid for Ukraine. Now the caravan has moved on to Madrid in order to expand military measures. US President Joe Biden emphasized: “Putin wanted Europe to be Finlandized. He will get the Natoization of Europe.” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says that Putin failed to close the door on NATO. “He gets the opposite of what he wanted.” An overview of other summit questions.
It is reminiscent of the Cold War era: Stoltenberg announced that the existing NATO response force “NATO Response Force” (NRF) is to be increased by a factor of seven. The intervention force now has 40,000 soldiers. Soon it will be around 300,000. The new armed forces model, which was decided at the NATO summit, is to be implemented by next year.
The increase serves above all to provide better protection for the Baltic states, which have felt more threatened than ever since the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) emphasized in Madrid that it was “very important that we expand our ability to defend the alliance at any time”.
Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) announced in Madrid that Germany would contribute 15,000 soldiers to increase the rapid reaction force. In addition, the Bundeswehr will contribute 65 aircraft and 20 ships to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank. Defense in the air and at sea is of particular importance in the Baltic Sea region. According to the Ministry of Defense, the increase should be completed by the end of 2024.
There is currently no plan as to how the new intervention force, which is apparently to be made up of existing associations, is to cooperate with the 30 NATO partners. In an emergency, the new forces could be requested by the NATO commander-in-chief in Europe. According to NATO information, the basic aim is to increase the number of soldiers who are on high alert for a possible case of defense – on land, at sea, in the air and in cyber defence.
The concept includes increased training of armed forces on NATO’s eastern flank and more heavy weapons in the countries concerned, also in order to be able to support Lithuania, which feels particularly threatened, in the event of a Russian attack. The Bundeswehr is already the “leading nation” of the 3,700 NATO soldiers stationed there so far.
The countries of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania feel particularly threatened by Russia, both because of their historical experience with their large neighbors and because of their exposed geographical location. In addition, there are Russian minorities living in the Baltic countries, who are receptive to propaganda from Moscow and have so far only provided the rhetorical pretext that, as Russians, they are being persecuted by their governments and must be protected by Russia.
The Suwalki Gap, the only land connection between the three Baltic states and the other NATO partners, is seen as NATO’s weak point on its eastern flank in the event of a military conflict with Russia. Running some 100 kilometers between the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad along the Polish-Lithuanian border and Belarus, it would be an easy target for Russian attempts to cut the Baltic off from the rest of Europe. Russia could also make it difficult to track troops, equipment or ammunition.
Conversely, Kaliningrad is supplied with goods from the Russian Federation by a railway line through Lithuania, which the government in Vilnius has just blocked for goods sanctioned by the EU. This led to a serious conflict with Moscow, which also concerns NATO. US President Biden emphasized in Madrid that the obligation to provide assistance under Article 5 of the NATO treaty is “sacred”. He is now having more American units relocated to Europe, including a fifth headquarters for European US forces in Poland. NATO will be equipped to counter threats from all directions, on land, in the air and at sea, says Biden.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was involved in the first working session of the summit. He called on NATO to supply his country with more modern weapons. This is not only a war against Ukraine. Rather, Russia aims to create a new world order, says Zelenskyj.
Germany wants to deliver three more Panzerhaubitzen 2000, seven of these heavy artillery pieces with a range of 40 kilometers are already in the Ukraine. But in view of the Russian gains in territory in the Donbass, the question also arises as to whether western main battle tanks should not also be supplied. There are reports that Spain wants to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.
Since Leopard 2 tanks come from German production, Chancellor Scholz would have to give the green light. Germany should not oppose this, said Union parliamentary group leader Johann Wadephul (CDU) in the Tagesspiegel.
“On the one hand, this is primarily the decision of the Spanish government, which Germany must respect and not torpedo with the lever of the end-user clause. On the other hand, Spain’s deliberations come at a time when Ukraine is under great pressure on the battlefield,” emphasized Wadephul. “Now is the time to support Ukraine with heavy weapons, not sometime later.” For the German government, this should finally be an opportunity to think about the delivery of battle tanks. “Specifically, these would be Leopard 1 tanks, which are available in significant numbers from the industry.”