NATO’s heads of state and government meet this week for their second summit after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s war and its consequences will again dominate the agenda.
The location of the summit—Vilnius—is an important symbol of NATO’s commitment to its eastern Allies. But the Baltic states will be looking not just for symbols, but for concrete measures to strengthen the Alliance, and boost their security and that of Europe more broadly.
From the perspective of the Baltic states and other like-minded Allies, NATO needs to deliver progress in two areas. First, Allies must approve NATO’s new defence plans and, equally important, agree on the measures needed to make these plans credible, including increased defence spending. Second, they must make decisions about when and how Ukraine will join the Alliance. There is not, however, consensus on these issues. In this short series of briefs, we look at some of the questions facing the summit.
NATO’s new defence plans have received wide approval from Baltic commentators, both for their content, and for the new set of procedures the Alliance has designed to connect the operational plans to the capability planning process and to force generation. But plans are worth little if the resources and policies to implement them are not also put in place. For credible Baltic defence and deterrence, it is vital to have a strong multinational posture in the region. At the very least, Allies need to deliver on the promises they made at the Madrid summit one year ago. Toms Rostoks examines this issue in the first brief of this series.
Several military and political-military issues also need to be addressed to underpin the new plans. Some of the key ones are discussed by Mārtiņš Vargulis in his brief on this subject. Furthermore, credible deterrence will also need Allies to invest more in defence, both to rectify the result of decades of under-investment and to meet the higher demands that the new plans will put upon them. The perennially difficult question of defence spending is dealt with by Margarita Šešelgytė. Looking to the slightly longer term, NATO’s command and control structures, designed for expeditionary operations, will also need to be revised for the Alliance’s renewed focus on collective defence. Gintaras Bagdonas looks at this issue in his brief.
The brief by Henrik Larsen examines Ukraine’s prospects for NATO membership. The clear position of the Baltic states is that Europe cannot be secure without Ukraine being secure. At present, however, few other Allies seem ready to make firm commitments about how and when Ukraine might join the Alliance.
Finally, while this summit will inevitably focus on issues in Europe related to Russia’s war, the Alliance retains a global profile. The Indo-Pacific region poses several security challenges that may also impact Euro-Atlantic security. Iro Särkkä’s brief looks at the developing relationships between NATO and its partners in the region: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.
Brief 1. “NATO’s Posture on the North-East Flank” by Toms Rostoks
Brief 2. “Defence Spending” by Margarita Šešelgytė
Brief 3. “Prospects for Ukraine’s NATO Membership” by Henrik Larsen
Brief 4. “NATO’s new Defence Plans” by Mārtiņš Vargulis
Brief 5. “Military Command and Control” by Gintaras Bagdonas
Brief 6. “NATO and the Indo-Pacific Region” by Iro Särkkä