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Expanding Nato squares up to Russia threat

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MADRID: The United States vowed on Wednesday to shore up Europe’s defences in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Nato declared Moscow the West’s greatest threat.

Meeting in Madrid, alliance leaders said Russia “is the most significant and direct threat to allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area”.

This came as Nato welcomed Sweden and Finland as invitees to join the alliance and US President Joe Biden announced new deployments of US troops, ships and planes.

Biden boasted the US announcement was exactly what President Vladimir Putin “didn’t want” and Moscow, facing fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces equipped with Western arms, reacted with predictable fury.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the US military build-up, and warned Nato members that the shifting balance of power “would lead to compensatory measures on our part”.

“I think that those who propose such solutions are under the illusion that they will be able to intimidate Russia, somehow restrain it — they will not succeed,” he said.

Nato leaders have funnelled billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine and faced a renewed appeal from President Volodymyr Zelensky for more long-range artillery.

“Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said, announcing a new Nato strategic overview that focuses on the Moscow threat.

“We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the document, updated for the first time since 2010, said.

In a summit statement, they said: “Russia’s appalling cruelty has caused immense human suffering and massive displacements, disproportionately affecting women and children.” Zelensky had earlier addressed the Nato chiefs by videoconference, calling for stricter economic sanctions, but afterwards his foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba thanked Ukraine’s western friends.

“Today in Madrid, Nato proved it can take difficult but essential decisions. We welcome a clear-eyed stance on Russia, as well as the accession for Finland and Sweden,” he said.

“An equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help protect Euro-Atlantic security and stability.” While US and European chiefs expressed backing for Ukraine in Madrid, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Asian leader to visit Kyiv since the war began.

Zelensky said he had accepted an invitation to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Bali, depending “on the security situation in the country and on the composition of the summit’s participants”. It is not clear whether Putin will also be on the guest list in November, with some capitals pushing for his exclusion.

As Western leaders met in Madrid, in Ukraine officials complained that Russian missiles had hit civilian housing and businesses in and around the cities of Dnipro, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv, leaving at least seven dead and 14 wounded.

In Kremenchuk, the town where a Russian missile on Monday destroyed a shopping centre and — according to local officials — killed at least 18 civilians, clearing operations continued.

A giant crane was working near the site of the impact and in the rubble-strewn parking area shopping trolleys piled with clothes and household goods lay abandoned.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2022

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