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Sweden, Finland on course to join NATO as Russia, China focus allies

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Sweden and Finland on Wednesday looked set for fast-track membership of NATO after Turkey lifted a veto on them joining, at a summit where the U.S.-led alliance is due to adopt a broad strategy focused on Russia and China for the next decade, according to Reuters.

After talks in Madrid, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday agreed with his Finnish and Swedish counterparts a series of security measures to allow the two Nordic countries to progress in their bid to join the U.S.-led alliance.

“We will make a decision at the summit to invite Sweden and Finland to become members,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said of the two countries, who overturned decades of neutrality to apply to join the alliance in mid-May.

The agreement, hailed as a victory for Erdogan in Turkish media, removed a major hurdle to the Nordic nations joining. Their bid must now be approved by the member states’ parliaments, a process that could take some time.

“We are sending a strong message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin: ‘you will not win’,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech.

In a sign of Western momentum, the NATO summit, which began on Tuesday evening with a dinner at Spain’s royal palace, will welcome the leaders of non-NATO members Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

NATO is seeking to forge closer ties with those countries to counter China and Russia, who in early February issued a joint statement rejecting NATO’s expansion in Europe and challenging the Western-led international order.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has produced a more united world, in terms of democratic nations, and a resolve that is strong and clear. And I believe it will be decisive as well,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a think-tank event in the summit margins.

Allies are set to agree on NATO’s first new strategic concept – its master planning document – in a decade.

Russia will be identified as NATO’s “main threat” in the strategic concept, Spain’s Sanchez said. Russia was previously classed as a strategic partner of NATO.