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NATO Faces Biggest Challenge Since World War II, Says Stoltenberg.

NATO leaders pose for a group photo in Madrid on June 28.

NATO leaders pose for a group photo in Madrid on June 28.

NATO faces its biggest challenge since World War II amid Russia's war in Ukraine, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on June 29, adding that Moscow poses a direct threat to the security of the alliance's member states.

Arriving for the second day of a NATO summit in Madrid that is expected to adopt a new strategic blueprint crucial for the future of the alliance, Stoltenberg said allies meet “in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced,” adding, “this will be a historic and transformative summit.”

"We'll state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security," Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said NATO is going to agree on deterrence, on being able to deploy more combat formations, and getting more pre-positioned equipment in Eastern Europe by next year.

Stoltenberg also said he expected a swift ratification of Sweden and Finland's accession to the military alliance after Turkey lifted its objections to the two Nordic states' membership.

"We will make a decision at the summit to invite Sweden and Finland to become members, that's unprecedented quick," he told reporters in Madrid on June 29. Both countries applied for membership of the alliance in mid-May.

"After invitation, we need a ratification process in 30 parliaments," he added. "That always takes some time but I expect also that to go rather quickly because allies are ready to try to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's ongoing invasion, how Kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians and refugees, and Western aid and reaction . For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to make a speech via videoconference at the summit later on June 29.

On the first day of the summit, Turkey agreed to lift its opposition to NATO membership bids filed by Finland and Sweden in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Finland and Sweden last month moved to abandon their nonaligned status and applied to join the military alliance, but their bids were held back by Turkey, which has accused both nations, particularly Sweden, of offering a safe haven to Kurdish militants who have been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the breakthrough came after he and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on June 28 ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid and signed a joint memorandum "to extend their full support against threats to each other’s security."

The memorandum “confirms that [Turkey] will at the Madrid Summit this week support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” Niinisto said on Twitter .

"The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent," Niinisto said in a press release.

Stoltenberg and Turkey's presidency confirmed the accord in separate statements.

Under the terms of the deal, Sweden will intensify work on Turkey's requests for the extradition of suspected Kurdish militants, Stoltenberg said.

Sweden and Finland will also amend their laws to toughen their approach to Kurdish militants with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and will lift their restrictions on selling weapons to Turkey.

The Turkish presidency's statement said the agreement meant "full cooperation with Turkey in the fight against the PKK and its affiliates."

It also said that Sweden and Finland were "demonstrating solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The agreement "sends a clear message to President Putin: NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg said in a press conference on June 28, referring to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose ardent opposition to Ukraine's desire to join NATO was a pretext for his decision to invade the country in February.

The invasion raised fears in Finland and Sweden about Russian aggression, prompting them to seek to join the Western military alliance. Finland's long border with Russia means the Russian-NATO border will expand dramatically.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Time

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