Stoltenberg's NATO summit takeaways, from Ukraine to Turkey and Sweden NATO's expansion is the exact opposite of what Russia wanted, says Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He spoke to NPR about its NATO's newest members, and when Ukraine might join them.

Key takeaways from this week's NATO summit, according to the group's leader

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President Biden met other leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Since the 1940s, it's been the most vital U.S.-led alliance. It once protected Western Europe from the Soviet Union. And today, it protects even more of Europe from Russia, which President Biden said is vital.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The idea that the United States could prosper without a secure Europe is not reasonable.


INSKEEP: A big question at this summit is who's in the alliance and who's not. Sweden got in. Ukraine, of course, did not, at least not yet. And leaders at that summit included NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who's back on the program. Welcome, sir.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thanks so much for having me.

INSKEEP: We'll just note that the NATO ally, Turkey, dropped its objection to letting Sweden join the alliance. How was that resolved?

STOLTENBERG: I had a meeting with President Erdogan and then the Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, and there we reached an agreement on how to ensure that now Sweden will become a full member of the alliance. And, of course, also the support from the United States and President Biden has been extremely important in making this solution possible. So this is a good day for Sweden and a good day for the whole of NATO.

INSKEEP: Turkey, of course, had these seemingly unrelated demands having to do with people they regard as terrorists who were on Swedish soil. Was it appropriate for President Erdogan to bring up those matters, and do you still regard Turkey as an ally in good standing?

STOLTENBERG: Yes, absolutely. Turkey is a very important ally. They are extremely important in our fight against ISIS/Daesh in Iraq and Syria, the only NATO ally bordering Iraq and Syria. And PKK is a terrorist organization in Turkey, but they are also responsible for organized crime in Sweden and other countries in Europe. So the fact that we now are stepping up our cooperation on fighting those organizations, like PKK, is important both for Turkey but also for the rest of Europe.

INSKEEP: How much does it matter now that all of Scandinavia - including Finland, which borders Russia - all of Scandinavia is now in the alliance or on its way in?

STOLTENBERG: It will strengthen NATO. But it's, of course, also extremely important for the Nordic region where all countries are now part of the same security arrangements - are members of NATO, and Sweden soon will be a full member. And by having Finland in, NATO's border with Russia is more than doubling. And the reality is that Putin now is getting the exact opposite of what he wanted when he went to war against Ukraine. He's getting more NATO and more members in NATO. So it demonstrates that it was a big strategic failure of Putin to invade Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Of course, Ukraine cannot or is not being allowed to join at this time, much as it would like to, and even though it's being supported by the NATO alliance. And on one level, this seems self-evident. NATO regards an attack on one member as an attack on them all. Ukraine is being attacked at the moment, so joining NATO would seem to bring all of NATO directly at war with Russia, which you don't want. Does that mean the war would have to end - decisively end in order for Ukraine to become part of NATO?

STOLTENBERG: It means that at least as the situation is in Ukraine now, with a full-fledged war going on, of course, that makes it impossible to have Ukraine as a member because NATO supports Ukraine. We help them to uphold their right for self-defense. But NATO is not directly involved in the conflict. And since NATO is based on the idea of one for all, all for one, an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance, then we need to find a way to make Ukraine a member which doesn't then trigger a full-scale conflict between Russia and NATO.

INSKEEP: So you would need to find some formula. And would that have to involve some kind of peace settlement first with Russia before you could do that?

STOLTENBERG: I'm a bit careful speculating exactly how we will overcome that challenge. The most imminent task now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation. Because unless Ukraine prevails as a democratic nation in Europe, there is no membership issue to be discussed at all. And the important thing we did at the NATO summit in Vilnius this week was to move Ukraine closer to NATO membership - a multiyear program showing their forces are fully interoperable with NATO and also strengthen political ties with Ukraine, and then declaring that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance.

INSKEEP: In a few seconds, is the NATO alliance - are the member countries able to supply Ukraine with everything it needs for its ongoing offensive against Russia?

STOLTENBERG: Yes. And again, the U.S. has demonstrated the leadership - provided unprecedented level of support with ammunition, with advanced weapon systems. And European allies have also stepped up and increased defense spending, record high numbers this year, and also more support for Ukraine. So all NATO allies support Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, thanks so much.

STOLTENBERG: Thanks so much for having me.

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