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19 May 22. Austin, Robles Stress NATO Unity During Pentagon Meeting.
NATO unity was a big part of the discussions in the Pentagon today as Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles. Spain will host the NATO Summit in Madrid next month. Officials said that NATO leaders will discuss a new footprint for NATO forces in Europe at that time.
The possible new footprint, of course, is a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the Russian army to invade neighboring Ukraine.
“We’re meeting today at a pivotal moment in European history — when democratic values and the rules-based international order are under attack,” Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. “So especially now, we stand united. Spain has long been a steadfast ally of the United States, and together, we’re going to continue to support the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and indefensible invasion.”
Austin said the NATO support is making a difference on the battlefields of Ukraine’s Donbas region. “We welcome Spain’s important military contributions to deterrence along NATO’s eastern flank,” he said. “And we applaud your direct security assistance and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.”
But there are other threats in the world, and the two leaders discussed them. “We must not overlook NATO’s southern flank,” Austin said. “Our competitors continue to seek a foothold there, and instability could develop into threats that reach our homelands.”
Spain has long been a leader in this effort. Austin noted that Spain’s strategic position makes it a “fulcrum of Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.”
“In these turbulent times, the NATO Summit in Madrid next month will mark a turning point for the alliance as leaders endorse a new strategic concept — one that must look both east and south,” he said.
Spain also hosts American forces at the Spanish Naval Station Rota and Moron Air Base. Austin thanked the minister for her nation’s hospitality and said they would examine ways to improve the already robust bilateral relationship between the two nations.
Robles said the alliance is going through a very crucial and difficult moment. “The situation in Ukraine shows to the world that we have a lot of threats, and we have to stand together,” she said. “The unity is our strength.” (Source: US DoD)
18 May 22. Sweden, Finland Apply for NATO Membership. Finland and Sweden officially applied to join the 30 members of the NATO alliance earlier today.
Later, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted an enhanced honor cordon at the Pentagon for Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist.
The leaders discussed the strength of the bilateral defense relationship and the historic decision by the Swedish government to seek NATO membership. They also underscored the importance of security and stability in Europe and transatlantic unity.
Things have changed since Sweden’s previous neutrality posture, said Hultqvist.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging an unprovoked attack on a peaceful and democratic Ukraine. War is ranging in Europe on a scale not seen since the Second World War,” he said.
“The Russian propaganda can no longer hide the true nature of Russia’s corrupt and autocratic regime. It cannot hide Russia’s war crimes.
“This is a time when the democracies of Europe and North America must stand together against Russia’s naked aggression,” Hultqvist said.
Membership will benefit the training and interoperability of Sweden’s armed forces, he said.
“We must stand together in protecting the security of Europe and North America. This will be a close relationship,” he said.
The United States strongly supports Sweden’s application for membership, Austin said, noting that the militaries of both nations routinely train together.
“I’m proud that our defense relationship with Sweden remains strong. We look forward to your contributions to the NATO alliance,” Austin said.
“Your capabilities are modern, relevant and significant, and your addition to the alliance will make us all better at defending ourselves,” he said.
Austin also thanked Sweden for supporting Ukraine with security and humanitarian assistance. (Source: US DoD)
18 May 22. United Kingdom: European Commission threatens ‘trade war’ over Northern Ireland Protocol. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss outlined plans for a new bill altering parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit deal yesterday, 17 May, prompting European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic to warn that the EU will ‘respond with all measures at its disposal’. Truss’ plan has already raised fears in the EU and Ireland that such a move constitutes a unilateral re-writing of the Protocol, effectively removing legal checks and safeguards on UK-NI movement of goods enshrined in the original Brexit deal. The move will substantially affect government stability in Northern Ireland, which remains deadlocked as the Democratic Unionist Party continues to block the formation of a new government over concerns related to the Protocol. As a result, regional tensions between the UK and EU will continue to escalate in the short term, with substantial policy risk to firms operating across the UK-NI and NI-RoI borders also set to increase. (Source: Sibylline)
16 May 22. Finland and Sweden signal paradigm shift with push to join Nato. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ushered in historic policy change that is backed by public. There can be no other word for what happened in Finland and Sweden this weekend but “historic”. For decades in Finland’s case and centuries in Sweden’s, the thought of joining a military alliance was all but impossible. Now, in the 81 days since Russia launched its full-scale war against Ukraine, the situation has changed so dramatically that Sweden and Finland are rushing into Nato with large majorities in both their parliaments and populations backing them. “It’s a big step in our western integration, it is finalising it. Yes, for the country it’s a change in paradigm,” said Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s EU minister. But she also added: “You could interpret it as a very natural process as well. It’s no wonder that Finnish public opinion turned in such a short time. It tells the story of decades of preparation. In that sense, it’s not any giant step. When the time was right, the readiness was there.” Finland has a history of using periods when its larger neighbour to the east is distracted or weak to make big decisions. It declared independence in 1917, weeks after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. “We’ve always tried to adjust, and when there’s a window of opportunity we’ve tried to use it,” said Elina Valtonen, deputy head of the main opposition National Coalition party, a longtime supporter of Nato membership. Finland’s government, together with the President Sauli Niinistö, took the decision to apply on Sunday. Parliament is likely to ratify the move on Monday or Tuesday by a huge majority, and the application could be sent jointly with Sweden on Tuesday or Wednesday when Niinistö makes a state visit to Stockholm. (Source: FT.com)
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