“The Madrid summit is going to be a pivotal summit” for the future of NATO, declared Tuesday the secretary general of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, at the opening of this meeting planned for a long time but whose stakes have been multiplied by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Invited to participate in the exchanges, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak twice by videoconference, while kyiv continues to demand more arms deliveries from its partners.

NATO countries, which have already provided billions of dollars in aid to Kyiv, will agree in Madrid “on a comprehensive assistance program for Ukraine to help it enforce its right to legitimate defence,” promised Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

“It is extremely important that we are ready to continue to provide our support because Ukraine today faces brutality that we have not seen in Europe since the Second World War,” he urged. .

A message relayed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who called on the Alliance for a “message of unity and strength” after a G7 meeting in Germany, organized ahead of the NATO summit. “Russia cannot and must not win” the war, he insisted.

For his part, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call on all Alliance countries on Wednesday to increase their military spending in response to the Russian invasion, in order to “restore deterrence and provide defense for the decade to come”. , according to Downing Street.

– End of Turkish veto –

Beyond Ukraine, Wednesday should be an opportunity for NATO to adopt its new “strategic concept”, the first revision of its roadmap since 2010, which should evoke for the first time the challenges posed by China.

It will also be an opportunity to launch the accession process for Finland and Sweden, which decided to join NATO in reaction to the offensive launched by Russia in Ukraine on February 24, breaking with a long tradition of neutrality.

This membership has so far been blocked by Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, which accused Stockholm and Helsinki in particular of harboring militants of the Kurdish organization PKK, which Ankara considers “terrorist”.

But after long negotiations on the sidelines of the summit, Turkey gave its agreement on Tuesday evening to the entry into NATO of these two Nordic countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having estimated that he had obtained their “full cooperation” in his fight against the PKK.

“NATO’s open door policy” has resulted in “a historic success”, welcomed Jens Stoltenberg. “Welcoming Finland and Sweden to the alliance will make them more secure, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” he insisted.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden “congratulated Turkey, Finland and Sweden” for signing this agreement.

“As we begin this historic summit in Madrid, our Alliance is stronger, more united and more determined than ever,” he said.

This agreement will allow NATO countries to show their unity on Wednesday. But the formal entry of the two countries, which must be ratified by the parliaments of the 30 member states of the Alliance, is a long process that takes months.

– “Cycle of death” –

This NATO summit comes as Ukraine continues to pay a heavy price on the ground because of the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian authorities thus reported on Tuesday several deadly strikes against civilians, in particular in Lyssytchansk, twin city of that of Severodonetsk, located in a pocket of strategic Ukrainian resistance in the Donbass basin (east).

These strikes came the day after an attack that ravaged a crowded shopping center in Kremenchuk, 330 kilometers southeast of kyiv, leaving at least 18 people dead and around 40 missing, according to Ukrainian authorities.

This bombardment is “one of the most shameless terrorist acts in European history”, denounced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asking that Russia be designated as a “State sponsor of terrorism” after this strike on “a peaceful city “.

During a live intervention on Tuesday evening before the UN Security Council, he suggested sending a commission of inquiry and once again demanded that Russia be expelled from its permanent seat.

“The cycle of death, of destruction must end. For the good of Ukraine, Russia and the whole world”, pleaded at the start of the meeting the UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo.

Moscow, which has ensured since the start of the war that it wants to “demilitarize” and “denazify” its neighbor, however on Tuesday ruled out interrupting its offensive until Ukraine capitulated.

“We must order the Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms and implement all the conditions set by Russia. Then everything will be over in one day,” said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.