The West’s effort to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his war in Ukraine shifted Tuesday from a Group of 7 summit in Germany, which concluded with a fledgling and untested plan to seek price caps on Russian oil, to a NATO meeting in Madrid. There, the Atlantic alliance is expected to announce a beefing up of both military funding for Ukraine and its own forces in Eastern Europe.
As President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders scramble for additional ways to deter Russia, whose aggression has not been blunted by four months of sanctions and arms deliveries to Ukraine, Putin sought to solidify his own support overseas. On Tuesday, he traveled to Tajikistan before a summit of Central Asian countries. The Russian leader hopes the meeting will serve as a counterweight to his increasing economic and political isolation from the West.
The visit to Tajikistan — Putin’s first overseas trip since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February — is a show of confidence by the Russian leader, whose forces continue to make grinding progress in seizing more of eastern Ukraine while inflicting indiscriminate harm against civilians. Officials raised the death toll to 18 in a Russian strike Monday against a shopping mall in central Ukraine, with dozens more injured.
The steps announced by G-7 leaders Tuesday, at the close of two days of talks at a secluded castle in the Bavarian Alps, were an acknowledgment that their efforts to punish Russia with sanctions have so far shown little sign of changing Putin’s calculus, even as the war’s economic toll ripples worldwide. G-7 leaders also announced that they would spend billions more on food security, seeking to counter shortages caused by Russia’s invasion.
In Madrid, NATO leaders were expected to announce a raft of measures at formal meetings beginning Wednesday. Those steps include new military support and weapons for Ukraine, additional funding for the alliance, increases to member states’ own military budgets and a decision to deploy more heavy weapons and troops, including Americans, along NATO’s eastern flank as a show of solidarity and a warning to Russia.
But beneath the shows of allied resolve lurked fissures that threatened to undermine NATO solidarity. Chief among them was the opposition by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, to admitting Finland and Sweden into the 30-member alliance.
Biden has thrown his support behind the Nordic states’ applications for membership, viewing their swift accession as a setback for Putin, because it would result in an expanded NATO with a greater security footprint near Russia’s border. But NATO operates by consensus, and Erdogan has indicated that he would exercise his effective veto over Finland’s and Sweden’s membership because of concerns over their stance toward Kurdish groups that he regards as terrorists.
Biden spoke to Erdogan by phone Tuesday before a face-to-face meeting in Madrid, where they will discuss shared interests between their two countries, said Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. But Sullivan said Biden did not intend to “take on a brokering role” among Finland, Sweden and Turkey, whose leaders were also scheduled to hold talks with NATO officials in Madrid.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.By Michael D. Shear and Shashank Bengali