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Russia, China Slam NATO Alarm          06/30 06:24

   NATO faced rebukes from Moscow and Beijing on Thursday after it declared 
Russia a "direct threat" and said China posed "serious challenges " to global 
stability.

   MADRID (AP) -- NATO faced rebukes from Moscow and Beijing on Thursday after 
it declared Russia a "direct threat" and said China posed "serious challenges " 
to global stability.

   The Western military alliance was wrapping up a summit in Madrid, where it 
issued a stark warning that the world has been plunged into a dangerous phase 
of big-power competition and myriad threats, from cyberattacks to climate 
change.

   NATO leaders also formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, 
after overcoming opposition from Turkey. If the Nordic nations' accession is 
approved by the 30 member nations, it will give NATO a new 800-mile (1,300 
kilometer) border with Russia.

   Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond in kind if the 
Nordic pair allowed NATO troops and military infrastructure onto their 
territory. He said Russia would have to "create the same threats for the 
territory from which threats against us are created."

   Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Putin's threats were "nothing new."

   "Of course, we have to expect some kind of surprises from Putin, but I doubt 
that he is attacking Sweden or Finland directly," Kallas said as she arrived at 
the summit's conference center venue. "We will see cyberattacks definitely. We 
will see hybrid attacks, information war is going on. But not the conventional 
war."

   China accused the alliance of "maliciously attacking and smearing" the 
country. Its mission to the European Union said NATO "claims that other 
countries pose challenges, but it is NATO that is creating problems around the 
world."

   NATO leaders turned their gaze south for a final summit session Thursday 
focused on Africa's Sahel region and the Middle East, where political 
instability -- aggravated by climate change and food insecurity sparked by the 
war in Ukraine -- is driving large numbers of migrants toward Europe.

   "It is in our interest to continue working with our close partners in the 
south to fight shared challenges together," NATO Secretary-General Jens 
Stoltenberg said.

   But it was Russia that dominated the summit. Stoltenberg said Moscow's 
invasion of Ukraine had brought "the biggest overhaul of our collective defense 
since the end of the Cold War."

   The invasion shattered Europe's peace, and in response NATO has poured 
troops and weapons into Eastern Europe on a scale unseen in decades. Member 
nations have given Ukraine billions in military and civilian aid to strengthen 
its resistance.

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who addressed the summit by video 
link, asked for more. He urged NATO to send modern artillery systems and other 
weapons and warned the leaders they either had to provide Kyiv with the help it 
needed or "face a delayed war between Russia and yourself."

   "The question is, who's next? Moldova? Or the Baltics? Or Poland? The answer 
is: all of them," he said.

   At the summit, NATO leaders agreed to dramatically scale up military force 
along the alliance's eastern flank, where countries from Romania to the Baltic 
states worry about Russia's future plans.

   They announced plans to increase almost eightfold the size of the alliance's 
rapid reaction force, from 40,000 to 300,000 troops, by next year. The troops 
will be based in their home nations but dedicated to specific countries in the 
east, where the alliance plans to build up stocks of equipment and ammunition.

   U.S. President Joe Biden, whose country provides the bulk of NATO's 
firepower, announced a hefty boost in America's military presence in Europe, 
including a permanent U.S. base in Poland, two more Navy destroyers based in 
Rota, Spain, and two more F35 squadrons in the U.K.

   The expansion will keep 100,000 troops in Europe for the foreseeable future, 
up from 80,000 before the war in Ukraine began.

   Biden said Putin had believed NATO members would splinter after he invaded 
Ukraine, but the Russian leader got the opposite response.

   "You're gonna get the NATO-ization of Europe," Biden said. "And that's 
exactly what he didn't want, but exactly what needs to be done to guarantee 
security for Europe."

   Still, strains among NATO allies have emerged as the cost of energy and 
other essential goods has skyrocketed, partly because of the war and tough 
Western sanctions on Russia. There also are tensions over how the war will end 
and what, if any, concessions Ukraine should make.

   Money remains a sensitive issue -- just nine of NATO's 30 members currently 
meet the organization's target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on 
defense.

   Britain, one of the nine, announced a further 1 billion pounds ($1.21 
billion) in military support to Ukraine on Thursday,

   At what Stoltenberg called a "transformative" summit, the leaders published 
NATO's new Strategic Concept, its once-a-decade set of priorities and goals.

   The last such document, in 2010, called Russia a "strategic partner." Now, 
NATO is accusing Russia of using "coercion, subversion, aggression and 
annexation" to extend its reach.

   The 2010 document made no mention of China, but the new one addressed 
Bejing's growing economic and military reach.

   "China is not our adversary, but we must be clear-eyed about the serious 
challenges it represents," Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

   NATO said that China "strives to subvert the rules-based international 
order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains" and warned of its 
close ties with Moscow.

   The alliance said, however, that it remained "open to constructive 
engagement" with Beijing.

   China shot back that NATO was a source of instability and vowed to defend 
its interests.

   "Since NATO positions China as a 'systemic challenge,' we have to pay close 
attention and respond in a coordinated way. When it comes to acts that 
undermine China's interests, we will make firm and strong responses," its 
statement said.

 
 
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