Nato ‘to agree biggest overhaul of defences since the Cold War at Madrid summit’

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Nato troops at the Canadian-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Adazi, Latvia (REUTERS)
Nato troops at the Canadian-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Adazi, Latvia (REUTERS)

Nato is set to agree to the largest overhaul of its defences since the Cold War at a summit in Madrid next week, according to reports.

The military alliance is said to be planning to expand its 40,000-strong response force following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a “radical change in posture”.

Vladimir Putin has baselessly claimed that the expansion of Nato represents an existential threat to Russia, though his invasion of Ukraine has emboldened the military alliance and prompted Finland and Sweden to apply for membership.

As world leaders prepared to meet in Madrid for a major Nato summit on June 28, an official in the military alliance told Sky News that the “mentality” had “changed overnight” following Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.

“Nato now feels like it is electrified. You can feel the energy surging through the system,” they said.

Sources told the broadcaster that the Nato-response force could be expanded by as much as six-fold, bringing the total number of soldiers on high alert to 240,000. However, they stressed the final amount is likely to be lower.

Under the new framework, the name of the force is also expected to change to the Allied Reaction Force (ARF).

The military alliance is also posed to designate Russia as “the most significant and direct threat” to western security.

A “comprehensive assistance package” for Ukraine will also be provided to give the country extra equipment to counter Russian drones and provide secure communication, according to Sky News.

In a speech previewing next week’s summit, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said allies would recommit to a pledge made in 2014 to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

Moscow provoked outrage on Monday after warning Nato member Lithuania that it would take action against the country unless the transit of goods to its Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea was swiftly restored.

“The situation is more than serious," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”

Lithuania said it was merely implementing EU sanctions, which cover the transit of Russian goods including steel and iron.

Finland and Sweden, which were previously committed to neutrality, both submitted bids to join the alliance earlier this year to shore up their security.

But their accession hit a stumbling block in May after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan opposed the move, claiming the countries had supported Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.

Any Nato membership requires approval of all 30 members of the alliance. Turkey has been a Nato ally for more than 70 years and has the alliance’s second-largest army.

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