MADRID, June 29 (Reuters) - NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
"The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure," the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the "most significant and direct threat to the allies' security", a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country's defence sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defence.
"Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control," the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO's interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order. (Reporting by Sabine Siebold, editing by Robin Emmott)