Nato marks 75th anniversary with warnings of renewed Russian threat

Nato marks 75th anniversary with warnings of renewed Russian threat


Nato marks 75th anniversary with warnings of renewed Russian threat

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Nato foreign ministers celebrated the alliance's 75th anniversary on Thursday to warnings that Moscow was as great a threat as ever and concern over stalled US aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

" Nato's biggest battles to fight are still in the future, and we have to be ready for them," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters at Nato heaquarters in Brussels, where a ceremony with birthday cake and marching bands could not mask the sombre mood.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who met his Nato counterparts there, urged the 32 member states to provide his country with new additional air defence systems, especially US-made Patriot missiles.

"I didn't want to spoil the birthday party for Nato, but I felt compelled to deliver a very sobering message on behalf of Ukrainians about the state of Russian air attacks on my country," he told a press conference.

Overnight Thursday, a Russian drone attack struck residential buildings in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and an energy facility in the region, killing several people and cutting power for 350,000 residents, Ukrainian officials said.

Kuleba said the Nato ministers had agreed to identify and find air defence systems in their arsenals to send to Ukraine.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the United States, where an aid package for Ukraine worth some $60 billion is blocked in Congress, needed its allies more than ever with the conflict that started with Russia's invasion of Ukraine now in its third year.

"Europe needs North America for its security," Stoltenberg said at the ceremony.

"At the same time, North America also needs Europe. European allies provide world-class militaries, vast intelligence networks and unique diplomatic leverage, multiplying America's might."

European leaders are anxious not only about Nato's future if Donald Trump beats incumbent President Joe Biden in the US election in November, but also about the ongoing hold-up to Ukraine aid in Congress.

On Wednesday, the Nato ministers agreed to start planning for a greater role in coordinating military aid to Ukraine to help it battle Russia.

Under a proposal by Stoltenberg, Nato would take over work done by a US-led ad hoc coalition known as the Ramstein group, in part to guard against any cut in US support if Trump returns to the White House, diplomats said.

Stoltenberg has also proposed a fund of 100 billion euros (about $108 billion) to support Ukraine's military over five years, according to diplomats.

It was far from clear whether that figure would be accepted by NATO members, who take decisions by consensus.

Nato began with 12 members from North America and Europe, founded in response to growing fears that the Soviet Union posed a military threat to European democracies during the Cold War.

At its heart is the concept of collective defence and that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, giving US military protection to Western Europe.

Seventy-five years on, it has retaken a central role in world affairs after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, leading European governments to view Moscow once more as a major security threat.

Nato’s two newest members, Finland and Sweden, joined in direct response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Democratic nations, free people chose to join (Nato) unlike how Russia expands by annexation or illegal aggression," Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said.

In Moscow, the Kremlin's spokesman said Russia and Nato were now in "direct confrontation", opens new tab due to the alliance's enlargement.