MADRID — President Joe Biden has planned to meet NATO leaders here on Wednesday, seeking to project an image of strength and unity among alliance members in what could be one of the most important gatherings ever. of its 73 years of history.
Biden managed to clear up a contentious issue on the first day of the summit by encouraging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to drop his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. The foreign ministers of the three countries on Tuesday signed a memorandum confirming that Turkey will support Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO candidacies, removing the last clear obstacle to their entry.
Biden spoke with Erdoğan on Tuesday morning, encouraging him to “seize this moment and do it in Madrid,” a senior administration official said. Although the United States did not directly broker the deal, Biden tried “to help put a thumb in the balance to get over the finish line,” the official said. Biden and Erdoğan are due to meet on Wednesday.
The alliance’s enlargement deal, along with announcements of increased troop numbers along NATO’s eastern flank, is intended to significantly boost the alliance’s capabilities to repel any potential aggression from Russia. against its member states.
When NATO leaders last met, for an emergency meeting in Brussels in March, there was a sense of triumph among members as they closed their guns on Russia, fearing they would be the next if Ukraine fell. It was a stark reversal from a few years earlier, when members openly questioned whether the alliance was still relevant.
But while NATO’s 30 members have maintained their resolve to support Ukraine, there have been differences of opinion in the months since on a variety of issues, from how far to punish Russia to the necessary level of military readiness.
Still, Biden hopes to project a show of unity to Russia coming out of the summit, an endeavor greatly aided by the deal between Turkey, Finland and Sweden.
“We have to stick together,” Biden said this week ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “Because Putin counted on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G-7 would split. But we didn’t and we won’t.
Before the meeting began, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced a major overhaul of the group’s military posture and priorities, increasing the number of its high-readiness forces to more than 300,000 per from the current level of 40,000, as well as the strengthening of military supplies and equipment in NATO members bordering Russia.