Balkans | NATO countries are preparing for the Vilnius Summit

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Balkans |  NATO countries are preparing for the Vilnius Summit

Leaders of NATO countries with a Ukraine-based agenda will meet at the summit meeting to be held in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

The NATO summit, which will be held in Vilnius, about 300 kilometers from the Russian border, will take place on July 11-12 with the participation of heads of state and government of member states. In addition to Sweden as an invited country, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand will be represented at the leaders level summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to be in Vilnius for the summit.

Officials from Western countries say holding the annual NATO summit meeting in Lithuania, the former Soviet republic, is a message to Russia.

Lithuania, the first republic to leave the Soviet Union in 1990, became a member of the alliance in 2004. NATO officials repeatedly say that Russia cannot be as involved in Ukraine’s advancement on the NATO path as Lithuania. It is noteworthy that holding the summit in Vilnius, 300 km from the Russian border, carries a message in this regard.

Ukraine will be discussed in 3 main topics

With the participation of Finland, the number of NATO members has increased to 31. The topics to be discussed at this summit meeting will be mostly related to Ukraine and Russia. The title of Ukraine at the top consists of 3 main components.

The first is to increase military support for Ukraine, which is at war with Russia. NATO countries are expected to agree on a long-term, multi-year support programme.

The program’s first goal is to convert Soviet-era military materials in Ukraine’s possession to NATO standards. For this, the stocks in the hands of the Ukrainian military must be updated.

The NATO-Ukraine Council holds its first meeting

The second element related to Ukraine is to take political relations with this country to the next level. For this purpose, the NATO-Ukraine Council will be formed and the Council will hold its first meeting in Vilnius. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the meeting, which will also include Sweden.

Relations between the parties, which were previously conducted on the basis of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, will continue within the scope of the NATO-Ukraine Council.

By bringing the relationship up to the council level, NATO and Ukraine will be able to make political decisions together as equals rather than in consultation and cooperation will be easier.

Ukraine membership

The third element is the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO. NATO countries are expected to confirm at the summit that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance, as happened in Bucharest 15 years ago. However, it does not seem possible to give a specific message about when and how this will happen.

The reason for this is the war going on in Ukraine. It has been clearly stated before that Ukraine will not be accepted as a member of NATO while its war with Russia continues.

The rationale is that at the moment NATO does not want to be a direct party to the Russo-Ukrainian war. Accepting Ukraine into the alliance while the war is still going on, and the war is on NATO territory, means that the ally is under attack.

In this case, Article 5 of the founding agreement of NATO should be activated, which states that “an attack on an ally is an attack on all allies.” This means that NATO can be drawn directly into a conflict with Russia, and NATO does not want this.

Negotiations are ongoing

However, after the end of the war, the leaders will talk about how and what kind of security guarantees NATO can give this country in Vilnius. On the issue of security guarantees, NATO officials do not go into any detail.

Days before the summit, diplomats from member states and NATO officials are still negotiating how the issue of Ukraine’s membership will be included in the Vilnius Declaration and what kind of language will be used.

In the statement published at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, it was stated that Ukraine would become a member of the alliance, but there was no framework on when and how this would happen.

American diplomats point out that we can go further than the Bucharest Declaration. Briefing reporters on the matter, US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said, “We will not go to Vilnius to repeat the statement in Bucharest. We take into account the current situation and that Russia has declared war on the territory of Ukraine. I believe that the declaration in Vilnius will reflect the Alliance’s commitment to the stability and security of Ukraine on the the long term “. He said.

Sweden’s application for membership

Sweden’s application for NATO membership is expected to be one of the most discussed topics at the summit.

After Finland’s accession in April 2023, both NATO and several NATO countries made statements at the highest level to complete Sweden’s membership process as soon as possible.

However, the fact that expectations regarding the removal of Turkey’s legitimate security concerns have not been met and that the legal regulations put in place in Sweden to combat terrorism have not yet yielded the expected results in practice pose obstacles to the membership process in this country.

Turkey expects to fulfill its obligations under the tripartite memorandum signed at the previous NATO summit held in Madrid in June 2022.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan finally said: “Those who advise us must first answer the following questions frankly. How can Turkey trust a country that has terrorists on its streets? How can a country that does not distance itself from terrorist organizations contribute to NATO? How can one that does not Fighting terrorism means fighting the enemies of the alliance?He summed up Turkey’s position by saying:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on President Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to meet one day before the summit in order to advance Sweden’s membership process.

The tripartite meeting will take place on Monday, July 10 in Vilnius.

NATO’s new military plans

One of the main issues in Vilnius is the new military plans to increase the alliance’s defense and deterrence against Russia.

NATO’s secret military plans are meant to be approved by leaders at the summit. Negotiations were underway until the last days over what the final form of plans would be approved.

NATO officials do not provide information on whether the plans are in an approved form.

NATO has been working on these military plans for years. After Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO deemed Russia and terrorist groups a threat in 2018 and changed its defense plans.

In 2019, a new NATO military strategy was drawn up, revealing what can be done to deter and defend the Euro-Atlantic region in 2020. In 2021, the concept of all-out combat is developed, taking into account factors such as demographic and technological changes.

Then NATO’s regional plans were drawn up. The regional plans, which consist of detailed and comprehensive studies, cover only areas within NATO’s borders. These secret plans were created for three regions.

The first includes the Atlantic Ocean and Northern Europe, the second is the Central European region extending from the Baltic to the Alps, and the third is the region from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.

The plans specify when, how and when NATO forces will be deployed on land, sea, air, space and cyberspace in these areas, and how to act in the event of a threat.

Within the plans, NATO aims to move a force of around 300,000 troops to the eastern flank within a maximum of 30 days.

Increase defense spending

The leaders will also talk about increasing defense spending in Vilnius. In this context, the Defense Production Action Plan is expected to be approved.

NATO officials indicated that investments must be made to increase the production of defense industries, and stated that an ambitious defense investment commitment would be outlined in this regard, and that Allies would commit to allocating at least 2 percent of their GDP to defense expenditures.


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