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NATO Leaders Plan Defense Overhaul

The alliance is set to unveil its largest defensive transformation since the Cold War.

By , an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Feb. 22. JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following the NATO summit in Madrid, a Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian shopping mall, and Japan’s heat wave.

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NATO Leaders Meet in Madrid 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following the NATO summit in Madrid, a Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian shopping mall, and Japan’s heat wave.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


NATO Leaders Meet in Madrid 

World leaders are convening in Madrid today for a NATO summit that is expected to bolster the alliance’s defensive capabilities as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues into its fifth month. 

At the three-day summit, the spotlight will be on Moscow—and, more peripherally, Beijing. NATO has already announced plans to expand the number of forces it has on high alert from 40,000 to 300,000—a more than sevenfold increase—and is also set to unveil a new “strategic concept” that now tackles China

“This constitutes the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defense since the Cold War,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday. 

The conference comes on the heels of another high-profile diplomatic meeting, the G-7 summit in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, which resulted in a series of new measures that target Russia’s arms industry and gold reserves.

In Madrid, leaders from South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand will join the NATO summit as observers. Ahead of the meeting, Seoul also announced plans to create a diplomatic mission to the alliance in Brussels. 

Their participation reflects how NATO leaders have “an eye on the Indo-Pacific” and Beijing, as FP’s Michael Hirsh writes. With the inclusion of these nations, he writes, “new battle lines are being drawn that could last for generations.”

A major point of contention will be the membership applications of Finland and Sweden, both of which have made bids to join the alliance but have been stymied by Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears intent on using the accession process to secure key concessions, such as loosening Western defense export controls and curtailing the activities of Kurdish groups based in Scandinavia.

Challenges surrounding their potential membership will likely come to a head in Madrid, with Erdogan expected to attempt to push through a number of his demands. At the summit, Western officials believe Ankara’s efforts could force negotiations to go down to the wire, FP’s Jack Detsch reports

“Turkey saw great leverage in the Finland and Sweden request,” one European official told Detsch, while speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are trying to maximize this in the way that they always do.”


What We’re Following Today

Russia bombs shopping mall. A Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk late Monday has killed at least 16 people and seriously injured dozens of others, according to Ukrainian officials. Before the strike, as many as 1,000 civilians had been inside the building, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. “This is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in the history of Europe,” he declared. “Russia became the biggest terrorist organization in the world.”

The mall attack comes as Russia has reportedly defaulted on its foreign debt after missing a payment deadline on Sunday, its first such default since 1918. But since Western sanctions have essentially frozen Moscow out of the global financial system, inhibiting these types of transactions, Russian officials said they did not consider it to be a default.

“The fact that Euroclear withheld this money, did not transfer it to the recipients, it is not our problem,” the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “In other words, there are no grounds to call this situation a default.”

Japan’s heat wave. Japanese authorities are urging the public to conserve electricity to avoid potential blackouts as the country faces its highest June temperatures on record. Temperatures spiked to 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit this past weekend, surpassing a previous high of 103.6 degrees Fahrenheit from June 2011 and forcing several cities to set heat stroke warnings. 

“We ask the public to reduce energy consumption during the early evening hours when the reserve ratio falls,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said. 


Keep an Eye On 

Possible Ecuador talks. After weeks of demonstrations over skyrocketing food and gas prices, Indigenous groups in Ecuador have agreed to meet with authorities over their demands. On Sunday, President Guillermo Lasso offered to reduce fuel prices by 10 cents per gallon in order to appease protesters. 

South Africa’s nightclub tragedy. South African officials have launched an investigation after 21 teenagers were found dead in a nightclub on Sunday morning. The teenagers, whose ages ranged from 13 to 17, had reportedly just finished their school exams. Police have yet to confirm a cause of death. 

“You have heard the story that they are young, but when you see them, you realize that is a disaster,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a South African news station. “When you look at their faces, you realize that we are dealing with kids.”

Christina Lu is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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