Foreign relations of NATO
NATO will begin the largest air force deployment exercise in Europe in the alliance's history on Monday in a display of unity toward partners and potential threats such as Russia.
The German-led "Air Defender 23" will run until June 23 and include some 250 military aircraft from 25 NATO and partner countries including Japan and Sweden, which is bidding to join the alliance.
A US soldier gestures to a North Macedonian armoured vehicles near Kumanovo, North Macedonia. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI
Citizens of several Balkan countries over the weekend and on Monday have had an opportunity to see displays of military equipment being used for the NATO "Immediate Response" military exercise.
This move represents a major change in the North Atlantic Alliance since it hasn't made major defense plans for a long time - in the recent past it participated in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in the bombing of FR Yugoslavia, but it did not consider post-Soviet Russia an existential threat.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was in Brussels on Tuesday to attend a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC), which will be preceded by a ceremony welcoming Finland into the alliance.
The flag-raising ceremony at NATO headquarters for the alliance's 31st member is being attended by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and government ministers.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on March 17 hailed Türkiye 's decision to push ahead with ratifying Finland's membership, and said Sweden should also be allowed to join "as soon as possible".
"The most important thing is that both Finland and Sweden become full members of NATO quickly, not whether they join at exactly the same time," Stoltenberg said.