As alliance bulks up, finger-pointing at Russia and China troubles analysts
The NATO summit concluded on Thursday was hailed by the alliance's chief as "transformative", "with far-reaching decisions" made, but experts have expressed their concerns for a heightened risk of conflicts resulting from the proposed changes.
The three-day summit in Madrid saw the alliance endorse its so-called new Strategic Concept blueprint, which positions Russia as the "most significant and direct threat" to NATO allies' security while accusing China of striving to "subvert the rules-based international order".
"China is not our adversary. But we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Leaders of NATO enhanced battlegrounds in Eastern Europe and increased its high readiness forces from the current 40,000 personnel to more than 300,000.
NATO also formally extended an invitation to Finland and Sweden to join the group after the two Nordic countries early last week reached a deal with Turkey.
Leaders of four Asia-Pacific nations－Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea－participated in the summit for the first time, a move seen by many as the US-led NATO's bid to counter China's growing influence in the region.
Yan Shaohua, an associate professor at the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, called the summit "a milestone in the history of NATO". But he said that the decision to begin the approval process for Sweden and Finland as NATO members serves as a double-edged sword.
"On one hand, it has strengthened the role of NATO as a fundamental pillar of European security. On the other hand, it marks a reshuffling of the security arrangements between Russia and Europe, sowing the seeds of uncertainties for European security order."
All 30 of the NATO member states must ratify the decision before the two countries become formal members, a process that could take a year or longer.
Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University who served as an adviser to three United Nations secretaries general, believes that the real trigger of the Russia-Ukraine conflict was constant NATO expansion.
"The real solution is to end the (US) neocon fantasies of the past 30 years and for Ukraine and Russia to return to the negotiating table, with NATO committing to abandon its goal of eastward expansion to Ukraine and Georgia in return for a viable peace," said Sachs, an economist who advised on economic reforms in the Soviet Union, later Russia, and several Eastern European nations in the 1990s.
Sachs said he disagrees with NATO's accusation that China poses a challenge to the values, interests or security of NATO countries. He added that "China is nearly one-fifth of the world's population, a great civilization, and with cultural heritage and wisdom that contributes notably to all of humanity".
"I find the (NATO) statement sad."
He Zhigao, a researcher at the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the "absolute security" for itself pursued by NATO risks plunging the world into a new round of "wars and conflicts".
He pointed out that NATO is "a military alliance that is deeply rooted in its bloc confrontation and Cold War mentality", adding that the organization is losing its appeal by trying to sell its "security anxiety" to developing countries.