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Secretary Blinken and Spanish Foreign Minister Albares on new NATO Strategic Concept

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

In Madrid today, NATO leaders approved a new strategic concept, a blueprint for the alliance going forward. Among its priorities - acknowledging climate change and addressing the security challenges posed by China. The document also defines Russia as the, quote, "most significant and direct threat to the alliance's security."

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JOSE MANUEL ALBARES: There is this awareness that what's going on in the East concern us very directly, because it's a change in the European order of avoiding war as a way of solving conflicts.

SUMMERS: That's Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, speaking on a panel moderated by ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host Michel Martin. They were joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: We have to recognize that the hard part is every single day for people in Ukraine. The death, the destruction being wrought by the Russian aggression is extraordinary, and the Ukrainians are living this every single day.

SUMMERS: So Michel Martin asked the two of them, when will a diplomatic solution be on the table?

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BLINKEN: It takes two to tango. And we have not seen any interest on the part of Vladimir Putin in engaging in any kind of meaningful diplomatic initiative. But in any event, it's really important that the Ukrainians define the terms of any potential negotiation. Our role right now is to make sure that they have the means in their hands to continue to repel the Russian aggression, and when a negotiating table eventually does emerge, which at some point it will, that they have the strongest possible hand to play at the negotiating table.

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: So the stated goal of this conversation was NATO after Madrid. I want to talk about some of those issues. Another issue - there were two significant recent disasters affecting both of your countries, both related to irregular immigration, just in the last couple of weeks. In Melilla, at least 37 people died attempting to cross. In the United States, at least 50 people died who were being smuggled into the country. Given that both of your countries, our countries, are national borders, but they're also NATO borders, is it time for NATO to turn its attention to mass migration in some meaningful way and to put some urgency behind that?

ALBARES: Yeah. Well, the two specific events that you pointed out is a human tragedy. And it's appalling to all of us. And what that points out is the complexity of the phenomenon of irregular migration and how both the origin and transit countries and the countries that we are receiving illegal migrants, we must cooperate as strongly as possible to try to channel and to deal with this challenge in the best way. And at the same time, we are talking about borders in which inequality is probably at its most. The Melilla border is a border between European Union and Africa, probably the most unequal and imbalanced border whatever reference you take - GDP, youth, whatever. And it's very complicated to try to channel those irregular flows. So we have to go also to the root causes, which is underdevelopment.

MARTIN: Agreed. But is NATO a vehicle to...

BLINKEN: The first thing we have to recognize is we are living a historic moment when it comes to irregular migration and migration of all sorts. There are more people on the move around the world, 100 million forcibly displaced in one way or another from their homes, more than at any time since we've actually recorded these facts and this information. And it is happening across the world. And we are following through on a number of things that we've agreed to, to try to work on this collectively. Spain is a partner in this effort, with other countries in the hemisphere, with the United States. So for sure, we need collective approaches to this.

MARTIN: Just a final question for each of you, an open-ended question - what do you see as the biggest challenge for NATO going forward?

ALBARES: Let me turn a little bit, your question. Threats are going to appear, and they can transform. The real challenge for us is to keep united and to keep the cohesion. If we do it, we are showing it. Concerning the Russian threat, we will always overcome whatever happens. If we start to have divisions and to try to get different approaches, then even very small challenges can be very, very disruptive for us.

BLINKEN: What is so powerful about what we've done in the last day and will do tomorrow is to reaffirm in ways that I can't remember us doing the solidarity among our countries. NATO is emerging from this summit more united, more focused, and with more assets to deal with a multiplicity of challenges. There's not a single one - the immediate threat posed by Russia and its aggression on Ukraine and against the principles of the international order, the longer-term challenge posed by China, a whole series of transnational factors that include climate and the effect that that has, including on generating conflict. All of these things are in our strategic concept. All of these things are challenges we have to meet and face, but we know that we're going to be more effective in doing it if we actually have a shared, common approach and we're bringing our shared weight to bear against them. That's what we're doing here over these two days.

SUMMERS: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, speaking on a panel with NPR's Michel Martin earlier today at the NATO summit in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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