Leaders from various parts of the world participating in the NATO Summit have commenced the first day of the crucial event with a renewed sense of unity following a significant achievement the previous evening. Turkey has agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, which has been viewed as a major victory. However, the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO continues to present challenges.
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During a bilateral meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Biden expressed gratitude for hosting the historic summit, which brings together all 31 NATO leaders. He also acknowledged Sweden’s imminent addition as the 32nd member and expressed confidence in its successful inclusion.
NATO agrees strong package for Ukraine
According to a NATO media statement, the package, agreed to at the Alliance’s summit in Vilnius, includes a new multi-year assistance programme to facilitate the transition of the Ukrainian armed forces from Soviet-era to NATO standards and help rebuild Ukraine’s security and defence sector, covering critical needs like fuel, demining equipment, and medical supplies.
The NATO Allies also agreed to establish the new NATO-Ukraine Council, which will hold its inaugural meeting in Vilnius with the participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Sweden finally achieves the entry key
The admission of Sweden into NATO, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s change of stance, is seen as a crucial development to maintain the cohesion of the alliance. Concerns were raised by national security experts regarding potential divisions if Sweden’s bid was not approved.
Sweden, known for its longstanding policy of military non-alignment, made a significant departure from this principle and applied for NATO membership last year, driven by the developments in the Ukraine war. While Finland, another country that applied around the same time, gained entry to NATO in April, Sweden faced opposition from Turkey, which delayed its membership process.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been opposing Sweden’s NATO membership due to various concerns. However, following late-night discussions on Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that Turkey had decided to support Sweden’s application for NATO membership. This development was met with praise from the United States, Germany, and Sweden.
Turkey had previously declined to accept Sweden’s application, citing accusations of harbouring Kurdish insurgents. Stoltenberg emphasised that the two countries had worked together to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, leading to the resolution of their differences.
Earlier, Erdogan had expressed that if the European Union were to reopen discussions on Turkey’s blocked membership, he would support Sweden’s NATO bid. However, this request was rejected by EU officials.
The announcement, made shortly after Biden’s arrival in Vilnius, highlights a notable shift in Turkey’s position, which had previously blocked the accession bid for over a year.
Ukraine issue became the pivotal one to discuss
Concerns regarding Ukraine’s frustration at not being admitted to NATO have been addressed during the NATO Summit, with leading nations providing security guarantees and assurances of Ukraine’s future in the alliance. President Joe Biden and G7 leaders demonstrated substantial support for Ukraine by issuing a joint declaration aimed at strengthening the country’s military capabilities.
While acknowledging that Ukraine was not invited to NATO membership during the summit due to on-going reforms, Biden emphasised that Ukraine’s security should not be dependent on the completion of that process. He stated that the long-term commitments being made are accompanied by immediate security provisions to address Ukraine’s needs and protect against any aggression.
Ukraine has been a prominent topic on the summit’s agenda, as President Biden seeks to maintain unity among the group in response to Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had expressed frustration over the lack of specific details regarding Ukraine’s accession to NATO. However, it seems that he received sufficient reassurances, as he stated that the results of the summit were positive during a news conference with the NATO Secretary General.
NATO has taken steps toward Ukraine’s entrance, including removing the requirement of a Membership Action Plan given Ukraine’s close relationship with NATO nations. However, a firm timeline for Ukraine’s official membership has not been provided.
Anger shown by Russia
During the first day of the NATO summit in Vilnius, top Russian officials expressed strong anger and accused Kyiv and its allies of bringing the world closer to World War 3 and prolonging the war in Ukraine. This reaction from Russia stems from several factors.
Firstly, the Russian officials have been frustrated since their plan to capture Kyiv and take control of Ukraine in a short period of time through a “special operation” was foiled by Ukrainian resistance. To justify their lack of success, the Kremlin has sought to portray their full-scale invasion as a war against not just Kyiv, but also the West, particularly NATO countries.
Although NATO leaders did not provide a firm timetable for Ukraine’s membership during the summit, they did emphasise that Ukraine’s future lies in NATO and shortened the eventual process for Ukraine’s entry into the alliance. This emphasis on Ukraine’s future in NATO and the support shown by NATO leaders might have intensified Russia’s anger.
In an attempt to reassure President Zelensky, the G7 nations are expected to issue a declaration outlining how they will assist Ukraine in defeating Russia and deterring any further aggression in the coming years. This declaration could have added to Russia’s frustration.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, made hyperbolic statements, claiming that the West’s actions are leading the world closer to World War 3. While Medvedev is known for making outlandish statements, his sentiments were echoed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who criticised the United States and its allies for supporting Ukraine.
Lavrov accused the West of continuously arming Ukraine and pushing President Zelensky to continue the fight. He also praised Indonesia’s independent foreign policy on the conflict and criticised Western nations for ignoring initiatives from developing countries.
Amidst these tensions, Ukraine announced that it successfully shot down 11 Russian drones during a second consecutive night of attacks on Kyiv. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in a significant loss of life and casualties on both sides.
Overall, Russia’s anger at the NATO summit appears to stem from its frustrations over the failure to achieve its objectives in Ukraine, perceived Western support for Kyiv, and the continued conflict between the two countries.
The decision by Turkey to support Sweden’s NATO membership has been hailed as a significant achievement by President Biden and other leaders. This move not only showcases unprecedented unity among the alliance in the face of Russia’s war but also provides a substantial display of force as they enter the summit.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan highlighted that Turkey’s decision was the result of direct talks among the parties involved, and the United States had been engaged with all parties leading up to this agreement. President Biden had recent engagements with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Turkish President Erdoğan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had discussions with his Swedish and Turkish counterparts.
During their meeting, President Biden commended President Erdoğan for his decision and expressed gratitude for his leadership and diplomacy in reaching this agreement. Erdoğan, in response, referred to Biden as a dear friend and expressed his appreciation for the congratulations on his re-election. He considered the meeting a first step forward in the consultations between Turkey and the United States, with prior meetings being mere warm-ups.
It is important to note that Sweden will not immediately join the alliance. The formal approval of their membership requires a parliamentary procedure in Turkey and the resolution of Hungary’s objections, which is expected now that Erdoğan is on board.
President Biden called for swift ratification in a statement following the news, expressing eagerness to welcome Sweden as NATO’s 32nd ally in the near future.
Cluster Munitions and other so on
During the NATO Summit, it was announced that the United States would be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine for the first time. This move aims to enhance Ukraine’s offensive capabilities, but it has generated some disagreement among allied countries due to concerns about the use of cluster munitions. President Biden referred to this decision as a difficult one but stated that it was necessary because Ukraine is running low on ammunition.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, highlighted that the UK is a party to an international agreement that expressly forbids the manufacture and deployment of cluster munitions, while also actively discouraging their utilization. However, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan sought to downplay concerns about a fracture with allied countries opposing cluster munitions, stating that the US has not received negative feedback from allies since the announcement. He emphasized that the provision of cluster munitions is temporary and that the US is actively working to ramp up the production of unitary rounds to meet Ukraine’s needs without relying on cluster munitions.
President Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to NATO and Article 5 during his bilateral meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda. Article 5 stipulates that an attack on one member of NATO is considered an attack on all members, and Biden reiterated that NATO takes this principle seriously.
During the Summit, member countries reached agreement on the need for NATO countries to allocate a minimum of 2% of their GDP to defense spending. Previously, this figure was set as a NATO target rather than a baseline requirement. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany will be able to meet this commitment starting next year.
On the second day of the summit, the NATO-Ukraine Council will have its inaugural meeting. The council is established to enhance coordination and cooperation between Ukraine and NATO member states, aiming to strengthen the relationship and address security concerns effectively.