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    The NATO summit starts in Vilnius. What to expect from the decisive meeting of the leaders of the alliance for Ukraine?

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    At the NATO summit, which will be held July 11-12 in Vilnius, bargaining will continue between Ukraine, its “lobbyists” and other states that take a more restrained position regarding military support for Kiev and its entry into the North Atlantic Alliance. This was stated in an interview with by Igor Istomin, Associate Professor of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems, Leading Researcher at the Center for Advanced American Studies at MGIMO and Valdai Club expert.

    According to the political scientist, at the moment the West is considering two options for further action against Ukraine. The first option, which is conditionally called “Israeli”, implies the continuation of military assistance to Kyiv on a more stable and permanent basis, but without its direct entry into NATO. The second option, on the contrary, involves Ukraine joining the North Atlantic Alliance.

    Vilnius, Lithuania

    Photo: Yves Herman / Pool / Reuters

    At the same time, both options are not considered as mutually exclusive, Istomin explained. For example, a scenario is possible in which the arming of Ukraine will be of a temporary nature, in order to then, after some time, return to the issue of its membership in NATO in a more substantive way. According to the expert, “the flywheel has started”, and some decisions on Ukraine will be made one way or another in Vilnius. At the current summit, it is extremely unlikely that a decision will be made to launch the procedure for Ukraine’s accession to the alliance. Two days before the event, US President Joe Biden said that Washington considered such a move premature.The American leader called the end of hostilities with Russia a key condition for progress on this issue, referring to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which equates an armed attack on one of the NATO members as an attack on all members of the alliance.Joe BidenUS President

    The views of NATO members on the criteria for Ukraine’s accession were divided

    For now, NATO countries have yet to establish more detailed criteria for granting membership to Ukraine. According to Euractiv, the members of the alliance were divided on this issue into three conditional groups. The first, “Eastern European” group, consisting of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, insists on softening the requirements for Ukraine and exempting it from compliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which was previously mandatory for all future countries of the alliance.

    President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and President of Poland Andrzej Duda

    Photo: Alina Smutko / Reuters

    Without this procedure, the applications of Finland and Sweden were approved, so Ukraine and countries sympathizing with it insist that Kyiv also be admitted to the alliance under a simplified scheme. On the eve of the summit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that NATO countries had agreed to cancel the MAP for Kyiv, but this information was not confirmed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The NATO Secretary General explained that no final decision had been made, but expressed hope that NATO would be able to send a “strong signal” to Ukraine during the meeting in Vilnius. The second group of alliance member countries – the United States and Germany – are in favor of establishing a stricter framework and benchmarks for Ukraine’s entry into NATO. In addition to the cessation of hostilities, Washington and Berlin cite the restoration of control over their territories by Kiev and ensuring the interoperability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) with NATO forces as conditions. The third group includes all other countries that occupy an intermediate position.

    NATO leaders will approve a multi-year plan for assistance to Ukraine

    NATO leaders plan to announce in Vilnius the allocation of a multi-year aid package to Kyiv, which, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, will “bring” Kyiv closer to the North Atlantic Alliance. In addition, the leaders of the alliance will agree on the establishment of a NATO-Ukraine Council, under which the status of Ukraine will be “equated with the status of NATO member states.” As expected, the leaders of the Netherlands and Denmark, standing at the origins of the coalition for the supply of American F-16 fighters to Ukraine, will also share the details of the training program for Ukrainian and Eastern European pilots. Earlier it was reported that special training centers will start working in Romania this summer.

    Erdogan was persuaded to ratify Sweden’s application for NATO membership

    Another important subject of the current summit is the disagreement between Turkey and other members of the alliance regarding the accession of Sweden to it. Stockholm, together with Helsinki, sent an application for NATO membership back in May 2022, but if the Finnish authorities managed to resolve their differences with Ankara and join the alliance in April 2023, then for Sweden this process was delayed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the Swedish authorities of giving asylum to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, and allowing insulting Muslims to burn the Koran. And on the eve of the summit, the Turkish leader linked Sweden’s accession to NATO to his country’s accession to the European Union (EU) – Turkey’s application has been under consideration since 1987. NATO and the EU, in turn, stressed that these are two fundamentally different issues.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson

    Photo: Yves Herman / Pool / Reuters

    However, already late in the evening of July 10, a few hours before the start of the summit, the parties managed to reach a compromise. After lengthy negotiations with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Erdogan nevertheless promised to ratify the application of the northern European country. According to Bloomberg, citing an unnamed Turkish official, in return, the Turkish leader managed to achieve easing of sanctions in the defense sector, as well as joining the EU Customs Union and liberalizing the visa regime for Turkish citizens.

    However, at the current summit, Sweden will still not be able to become the 32nd member of the alliance – this is impossible purely from a bureaucratic point of view, since the Turkish parliament will not have time to ratify the application of Stockholm

    The NATO Secretary General told reporters that Erdogan promised to send Sweden’s application for ratification by the Turkish parliament “as soon as possible”, but did not give an exact date. It took the Grand National Assembly about two weeks to ratify the Finnish application. In addition, to join NATO, Stockholm will need the approval of Hungary, but, according to Stoltenberg, they made it clear in Budapest that they would not be the last country to ratify the Swedish application.

    NATO will accept the first since the cold war defense plans against Russia

    In addition, at the Vilnius summit, the heads of the alliance will have to approve a new general defense plan, which, according to Stoltenberg, will allow NATO to repel two main threats: Russia and terrorism. The new plan will consist of three parts, each for its own region: North and Atlantic, Central E Europe, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.“These plans will be supported by 300,000 troops on high alert, including significant air and naval forces,” said NATO Secretary General.

    Jens Stoltenberg

    Photo: Ints Kalnins / Reuters

    In addition, during the summit, the members of the North Atlantic Alliance plan to approve an action plan to increase defense production and fix the obligation of NATO member countries to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense needs.

    Only 7 out of 31 NATO members now spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense

    Implementing such a solution could prove difficult, including for Canada, whose defense spending is 1.29 percent of GDP. An exception could also be made for Luxembourg, which spent only 0.62 percent of GDP in 2022 on defense.

    NATO leaders with allies to discuss confrontation with China

    At last year’s summit in Madrid, the members of the alliance adopted a new NATO strategic concept, which replaced the previous document from 2010. China was mentioned in it for the first time: Beijing did not appear in the previous Lisbon version. Unlike Russia, China was not labeled as a direct threat to the alliance’s security, but the document stated that Beijing was “challenging the interests, security and values” of NATO. As was the case last year, the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are expected to attend the Vilnius summit in an effort to demonstrate growing concerns about China‘s actions in the Asia-Pacific region. Over the past year, Japan and South Korea opened their representative offices in NATO, and in the winter of 2023 Stoltenberg visited these countries.According to Igor Istomin, the process of further building up cooperation between NATO and these countries will continue, since Washington is especially interested in this.He noted that, in addition to the confrontation with China, NATO allies from the Asia-Pacific region are also included in the “Russian track”, including in relation to the supply of weapons for the needs of Ukraine.


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