Secretary General: Vilnius Summit will make Ukraine stronger, reinforce NATO’s deterrence and defence

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07 July 2023

Previewing the Vilnius Summit at NATO Headquarters on Friday (7 July 2023), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the meeting of Allied leaders “will send a clear message: NATO stands united, and Russia’s aggression will not pay.”

“I expect Allied leaders will agree a package with three elements, to bring Ukraine closer to NATO,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the 2023 NATO Vilnius Summit.

The package will include a multi-year program of assistance to ensure interoperability; upgraded political ties – with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attending the inaugural meeting of a new NATO-Ukraine Council; and a reaffirmation that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, with unity on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal.

Allies will also take major steps to strengthen deterrence and defense, with the adoption of three new regional defense plans to counter the two main threats to NATO: Russia and terrorism. The plans will be supported by 300,000 troops on higher readiness, including substantial air and naval combat power.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Tobias Billström; the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Elina Valtonen; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye, Hakan Fidan

Allies are also expected to endorse a Defense Production Action Plan to “aggregate demand, boost capacity, and increase interoperability” and a more ambitious defense investment pledge to invest a minimum of 2% of Gross Domestic Product annually on defense. The Secretary General welcomed that NATO’s new defense spending estimates, released today, show a real increase of 8.3% for European Allies and Canada in 2023. “This is the biggest increase in decades, and the ninth consecutive year of increases in our defense spending,” said the Secretary General. “So European Allies and Canada will have invested over 450 billion extra US dollars since we agreed our defense investment pledge in 2014.”

The leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, as well as the European Union, will also take part in the Vilnius Summit. This will be Finland’s first Summit as a NATO Ally, the Secretary General noted, adding: “we look forward to Sweden joining as soon as possible.” Following a constructive meeting of senior officials from Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland on Thursday, Mr Stoltenberg will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Vilnius on 10 July, as the next step.

A meeting focusing on Sweden’s membership in NATO

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted a meeting focused on Sweden’s membership in NATO on Thursday, 6 July 2023, in which participated the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Tobias Billström, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Elina Valtonen, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye, Hakan Fidan.

At the Madrid Summit in 2022, all Allies agreed to invite Finland and Sweden to join the Alliance. Finland and Sweden also signed a Trilateral Memorandum with Türkiye, paving the way for their membership, and have implemented the Memorandum through meetings of a Permanent Joint Mechanism to strengthen cooperation.

“All Allies stand together against terrorism, and at next week’s NATO Summit, we will recommit to the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

Finland joined NATO in April 2023, which Mr Stoltenberg called “a game-changer for our shared security”. He added: “now it is time for Sweden to join the Alliance,” pointing to steps taken by Stockholm – including amending its constitution, introducing new anti-terrorist legislation, removing arms export restriction on Türkiye, and stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation including against the PKK.

“In the meeting we all agreed that we have made good progress,” said the Secretary General. “We all agreed that the full membership of Sweden is in the security interest of all Allies, and we all want to complete this process as soon as possible.” He added that demonstrations against Türkiye and against NATO in Sweden are aimed at blocking Sweden’s membership, disrupting counter-terrorism cooperation, and weakening NATO.

The Secretary General pointed to the major military benefits that Sweden will bring to the Alliance, including the ability to plan for the defence of the entire Arctic-Nordic-Baltic region as one, and providing an uninterrupted shield from the Black to the Baltic Sea region. “Sweden’s membership in NATO will make us all stronger and safer,” he said.

“Today, we reaffirmed that Sweden’s membership is within reach,” concluded the Secretary General, noting that he will convene a meeting in Vilnius on 10 July with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Kristersson as the next step in the process.

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