Stoltenberg expects ‘historic, transformative’ Nato summit in Madrid

Brussels, Jun 24 (EFE).- Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg expects the upcoming summit in Madrid to be “historic and transformative” as the alliance continues to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invading forces.

In an interview with Efe’s president, Gabriela Cañas, and the Spanish agency’s editor-in-chief, José Manuel Sanz Mingote, Stoltenberg also outlined how the alliance is preparing to welcome Finland and Sweden, looking to boost security on its southern flank, and working to ease the global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.

Question: In a few days you will be in Madrid to preside over one of the most important summits in Nato’s history, in the midst of a war — are all of the deals and decisions already agreed on?

Answer: No, not all the decisions are made but we are on track to have a really historic and transformative summit in Madrid, so this is really a summit I look forward to. It is going to be a summit that will be remembered and will be an important event in the history of Nato because we face a dangerous, more competitive world and therefore it is extremely important that all allies will now meet and make important decisions together in Madrid.

Q: What does Nato expect from Spain particularly? A recent poll shows that 83% of Spaniards are in favor of Spanish membership in the alliance.

A: First of all I would like to thank Spain, the Spanish government, the people of Spain and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for the decision to host the Nato summit, and also for the strong commitment by Spain to the transatlantic alliance and all the contributions you are making to our shared security, to our collective defense. The purpose of Nato is to prevent war, to preserve peace by standing together, one for all and all for one. And in a more dangerous world, in a more competitive world, it is important that we do so. Spain is really a highly valued ally, and I’m extremely grateful that Spain is hosting the summit in Madrid.

Q: Spain is concerned by the southern flank. How can Nato help countries in the south of Europe?

A: Nato has to be able to address threats and challenges from all directions and to protect all allies from any threat. Of course now there is a lot of focus on Ukraine and the east and the aggressive actions of Russia, but we need to also remember that there are many other threats. The instability, the terrorism we see emanating from the south, from Northern Africa, from the Sahel, the Middle East – that matters for Nato. One of the big deliverables – and one of the reasons why I welcome the fact that we have this summit in Madrid – is that we will address the threats and challenges stemming from the south, including to expand our partnership with our partners in North Africa, Tunisia, but in particular Mauritania. There we will agree a package to do more training, more capacity building, help them to fight terrorism, border controls, modernize the defense and security institutions. We know that when our neighbors are stable, then we are more secure. So to work with Spain – a leading nation in this effort – to strengthen what we do to address the challenges and threats from the south, that’s important for the whole alliance, and will be one the of the main deliverables and outcomes from the summit.

Q: Two autonomous Spanish cities are in North Africa. Could Ceuta and Melilla be brought under NATO’s umbrella one day?

A: Nato is there to protect and defend all allies against any threats, and we have very clear commitments in the Nato founding treaty. There we also have very clear definitions of the geographical scope of the alliance. But at the end of the day, this is a political decision by Nato allies, and I’m absolutely confident that they will stand by Spain if Spain faces threats and challenges, and that is what Nato is for.

Q: Do you think it possible that Turkish president Mr Erdogan will lift his veto of Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership?

A: The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for membership in Nato are historic. Nato membership for Finland and Sweden will strengthen Finland and Sweden. It will strengthen Nato and strengthen the transatlantic bond, and therefore I welcome those decisions. At the same time, we also have to take into account concerns by all allies, and in this case particularly expressed by Turkiye. No other Nato ally has suffered more terrorist attacks, no other ally hosts more refugees, and we know that Turkiye is an important ally bordering Iraq and Syria, played a key role in the fight against Daesh or Isis, and also being a Black Sea nation, helping us for instance to deal with the food crisis to help get grain out of Ukraine. So when Turkiye raises concerns, we have to take them seriously, and that’s what we have done. I have engaged actively with President Erdogan, with the political leadership in Ankara, and also with Stockholm and Helsinki, and my staff has worked hard and we continue to work hard. I cannot provide you with guarantees on when we will succeed, but we are working hard to get an agreement as soon as possible.

Q: But not during the summit, that would be very difficult.

A: It’s not possible for me to say anything with certainty but we work actively to find a solution as soon as possible.

Q: Four months into the invasion of Ukraine, do you fear that Nato could be dragged into an open war?

A: Nato is very concerned, very focused on our responsibilities and our roles when it comes to the war in Ukraine, the brutal war of invasion by Russia of Ukraine. We have two tasks: one is to provide support to Ukraine (…) to help them uphold their right to self-defense, to defend their own country, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and we support them to prevail as an independent sovereign state in Europe. At the same time, we also have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating, to become a full-fledged war between Russia and Nato, because then we will see even more death, more destruction, more damage, even more than we now see in Ukraine. And that is the reason why we have made it clear that we are not part of the conflict. We support Ukraine but we don’t send in Nato troops to be directly involved in the conflict. And second, that is also the reason why we have significantly increased our presence especially in the eastern part of the alliance. Spain is part of that. I was together with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Latvia, where Spain has troops, as part of the Nato presence, and Spain has also sent in ships, naval capabilities, and also air policing planes. All of this is part of a joint effort to send a very clear message to Moscow that we stand together and by doing that we are protecting every inch of Nato territory and we are preventing any attack on a Nato allied country and also then preventing escalation of the conflict.

Q: Are you afraid of a trigger point? For example an incident in Moldova, or in Kaliningrad?

A: There is always a danger. When we have a war going on, there is always a danger for incidents and accidents. That’s the reason why we are very closely following all developments and monitoring the situation in and around Ukraine, and we are also being very clear in our communications with Russia to prevent any misunderstanding or miscalculation. It is also why we need to be able to communicate with Russia to prevent incidents and accidents, and if they happen, to prevent them from spiraling out of control. But most fundamentally, we need to make sure that Russia and President Putin understands that if he attacks one Nato ally, it will trigger a response from the whole alliance. This is deterrence. This is a way not to provoke conflict, but to prevent conflict, to preserve peace. That’s exactly what Nato has done for 70 years. Nato is not there to create conflict. Nato is there to do the opposite: to prevent conflict, and preserve peace and we do that by standing together, one for all and all for one.

Q: The deterrence has not prevented Russia from invading Ukraine.

A: Well, deterrence has prevented Russia from invading any Nato ally country, and our Article 5 and our deterrence commitments, security guarantees, they are for the 30 Nato allies, for Spain, for Portugal, for Norway, for all Nato allies. And that’s our main responsibility, to protect 1 billion people living in 30 allied countries. Then, of course, Ukraine is not a Nato member so the security guarantees do not apply to them but Ukraine is a close and a highly valued partner of Nato, and an independent, sovereign, democratic nation in the heart of Europe, and that’s the reason why we provide support at unprecedented levels, with military aid, with humanitarian aid, with economic aid and the economic sanctions. Spain, all the Nato allies, pay a price for that. We see increased energy prices, we see problems in our economies, but of course this price is not very high compared to the price that the Ukrainians are paying every day, measured in blood and treasure and casualties of the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian soldiers, but also the price that we will have to pay if we don’t stop Russia from moving further and further into other countries, neighbors, independent countries in Europe. So, this is a price that is worth paying, because the alternative is much worse.

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