NATO Leaders Convene in Vilnius to Address Ukraine’s Membership and Sweden’s Blockade

Leaders from NATO member countries are set to gather in Vilnius next week with the objective of resolving divisions surrounding Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and finding a solution to Turkey’s blockade of Sweden’s accession into the alliance. The summit, taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, will be fortified by the presence of Patriot missile batteries, fighter jets, and forces from 17 nations, reflecting the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The notable attendees will include U.S. President Joe Biden, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Zelenskiy is expected to advocate for Ukraine’s admission into NATO once the war triggered by Russia’s invasion comes to an end.

While NATO members in Eastern Europe strongly support Ukraine’s inclusion, other countries such as the United States and Germany proceed with caution, wary of the potential consequences of a direct conflict with Russia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his anticipation that the leaders would reiterate Ukraine’s future NATO membership and unite on strategies to bring Ukraine closer to this goal.

During the summit, NATO plans to offer a support package to Ukraine, including an enhanced cooperation body—the NATO-Ukraine Council—and non-lethal military aid to assist in the reform of Ukraine’s armed forces to meet NATO standards. However, Zelenskiy emphasized the importance of concrete assurances on membership beyond the vague pledge made in 2008.

Negotiators are currently working to develop a final declaration for the summit that can be agreed upon by all NATO members. One option being discussed is the possibility of Ukraine bypassing the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a standard procedure for joining NATO. Parallel talks among major NATO nations, such as the United States, Germany, France, and Britain, focus on providing long-term security commitments to Ukraine, including the continuous supply of weapons and ammunition.

The summit will also address the issue of Sweden’s accession to NATO, which has been hindered by Turkey. Turkey accuses Sweden of not doing enough to combat Kurdish militants, while Sweden maintains that it has fulfilled its obligations as agreed with Ankara. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg supports Sweden’s position. Stoltenberg will host talks with Turkish President Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to resolve their differences prior to the summit.

In addition to Ukraine and Sweden, NATO leaders will discuss the commitment to allocate at least 2% of national GDP on defense, a step up from the 2014 pledge to move towards that target. Currently, only 11 out of 31 NATO members meet this requirement. The leaders will also approve NATO’s comprehensive military plans, the first since the end of the Cold War, which outline specific tasks and requirements for forces across the alliance to defend against potential aggression from Russia.

Moreover, the NATO leaders will engage with counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, reflecting the United States’ push for NATO to play a greater role in countering China.

As the summit approaches, optimism remains high that solutions will be found for Ukraine’s membership and Sweden’s blockade, paving the way for enhanced security and cooperation within the NATO alliance.

event_note July 7, 2023

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