Australia will be asked to back a transformation of the NATO alliance to toughen defences against Russia and confront strategic competition with China at a summit later this month that will expand the 30-member alliance in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is considering whether to attend the summit in Madrid on June 29 and 30 as part of a show of support from Asia Pacific partners including leaders from Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The agenda includes stronger cooperation on cybersecurity in response to heightened activity by Russia and China, an issue raised between NATO and Australian leaders in the past, as well as highly sensitive proposals to send more forces to Eastern Europe to defend the alliance’s eastern flank.
With Australia already sending military and medical supplies to Ukraine on regular RAAF flights into Poland, the Madrid summit will canvass further support from NATO members and partners as well as arranging the entry of Finland and Sweden into an alliance founded in 1949.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to speak online or in person to the gathering, which will also include United States President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders.
A formal invitation to Albanese to attend the summit is expected within days after NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană confirmed the intention to hear from Asia Pacific leaders as part of what he called the “transformation” of the alliance in the decisions to be made in Madrid.
“The negotiations we have and the adoption by our leaders of the new strategy concept will carve the way forward for the next decade for the transformation of NATO, not only in terms of collective defence but also to adapt and adjust to a much broader definition of security,” Geoană said last Thursday.
“Cyberspace, new technologies, hybrid [warfare], climate change and security – this is the obligation of NATO to be permanently adjusting to a changed environment. We are entering, as we speak, the era of great power competition. For the first time ever, in Madrid, we’ll have, at the highest level, our four Asia Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – attending our summit. The world is changing and NATO needs to adjust to this changing world.”