Europe & Eurasia NATO Security & Defense Ukraine United States and Canada
New Atlanticist July 8, 2024

Live expertise and behind-the-scenes insight as NATO leaders gather at the Washington summit

By Atlantic Council experts

Over the past seventy-five years, NATO has established its place among the most powerful military alliances in history. But how will it stay fit for the future?

NATO leaders gathered in Washington, DC from July 9 to 11 to grapple with that big question and many others, ranging from Ukraine’s path forward with NATO to the Alliance’s collective defense spending and coordination.

With the global stakes so high, we dispatched our experts to the center of the action at the summit and the NATO Public Forum. Below, find authoritative, up-to-the-minute analysis and insight from behind the scenes of these gatherings.


JULY 12, 2024 | 5:14 PM ET

Jenna Ben-Yehuda’s main takeaways from the 2024 NATO Summit

The Atlantic Council’s executive vice president breaks down the “strengthened approach” the allies took on Ukraine, the Alliance’s language toward China, and some of the other key topics discussed in Washington, DC this week.

JULY 12, 2024 | 11:55 AM ET

Biden’s press conference showed how political drama overtook summit substance

The substantive parts of US President Joe Biden’s press conference on Thursday, at the end of the NATO Summit, were overshadowed by questions about his health and him mixing up the names of world leaders. It was a microcosm of press coverage of this consequential past week.

This year’s NATO Summit made progress on many important issues. The Alliance recognized its global role, highlighting the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea while incorporating the IP-4 countries (Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) into its planned response. It took meaningful steps toward strengthening deterrence and defense, including announcing the deployment of new, long-range conventional missiles in Germany. Although more work remains to be done, NATO made progress on burden-sharing, with twenty-three of the thirty-two Alliance members expected to meet or exceed the agreed-upon target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. And the Alliance took concrete steps to help Ukraine defend itself, offering a “bridge” for Kyiv’s eventual NATO membership.   

Still, much of the coverage focused on domestic political turbulence within NATO’s member states, particularly stemming from the recently concluded elections in France and the United Kingdom, as well as elections in the United States later this year. Some of that coverage questioned whether Biden will be forced off the Democratic ticket or whether a second Trump administration would weaken NATO.

These angles risk missing the bigger picture for the sake of an immediate news hook. NATO has been a successful alliance of democracies for more than seventy-years years. It has weathered more significant domestic political turmoil within its member states before, and it has almost always emerged stronger on the other end.

That will likely be the lasting conclusion when the dust settles on this week’s meetings. NATO is entering its third strategic age. It won the Cold War, expanded in the post-Cold War era, and is now gearing up for strategic competition in an age of interdependence. Despite, or maybe even because of, its members’ vibrant democratic politics, NATO is successfully adapting to meet the new and significant challenges it faces at this inflection point in world history.

JULY 12, 2024 | 11:36 AM ET

Did the 2024 NATO Summit go far enough on Ukraine? The country’s former prime minister responds

The Atlantic Council’s Philippe Dickinson spoke with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on the Washington Summit Declaration and how Russian President Vladimir Putin may react to it.

JULY 12, 2024 | 10:24 AM ET

Allies sign ‘Ice Pact’ to counter Russia and China in the Arctic

It might be sweltering in Washington, but three NATO allies have ice in their veins. Yesterday, the United States, Canada, and Finland broke the ice on an Icebreaker Collaboration Effort, or “ICE Pact,” to bring as many as ninety icebreaker ships into production in the coming years—a number nearly as giant as the ships themselves compared to the United States’ current count of two. While Canada and Finland respectively have nine and twelve icebreakers, NATO lags behind Russian icebreaking capabilities in the Arctic.

As the 2024 NATO Summit winds down, the Ice Pact demonstrates how close cooperation among allies is a tremendous asset to US security. As revealed through congressional testimony, siloed US efforts to shore up the icebreaking fleet have faced budgeting complications and time delays. Icebreakers that were originally expected to be built by the summer of 2024 have been delayed to 2029, and will come at a 60 percent higher cost than anticipated. Additionally, the United States hasn’t built a heavy polar icebreaker in nearly fifty years, or a medium polar icebreaker in twenty-five years.

As authoritarian states band together to challenge the international world order, the United States and NATO stand to benefit from collaborative efforts to ensure a peaceful and stable Arctic region. The United States may be increasingly looking toward China, but China is looking north. China’s “near-Arctic” state ambitions, coupled with Russia’s desperate need for partners, are opening a historically peaceful and stable region to potential hybrid warfare and dual-use scientific research. To mitigate these challenges, the United States and NATO must ensure the ability to operate in the region. Shoring up allied icebreakers is a critical step in this direction.

JULY 12, 2024 | 10:05 AM ET

The Washington summit showcased the growing ties between NATO and its Indo-Pacific partners

Over the course of this week’s summit, there’s been much attention paid to the Indo-Pacific Four (IP4)—Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea—who are, for the third year in a row, attending the NATO Summit. The decision to extend invitations to these countries comes from a recognition, as explained in the Alliance’s summit communiqué, that the “Indo-Pacific is important for NATO, given that developments in that region directly affect Euro-Atlantic security.” The two “theaters cannot be decorrelated,” as US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said during the NATO Public Forum on Thursday.

Cooperation and integration between countries in the IP4 and NATO outside of the Euro-Atlantic area is not new, as exemplified by Australia and New Zealand’s support for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan between 2015 and 2021. However, there has been a significant evolution in this cooperation in recent years, reflecting shared support for Ukraine as well as mutual concern about China and its growing cooperation with Russia. NATO’s role in setting standards across the defense industry also interests the IP4 countries, especially those with a robust defense industrial base. 

First, as reflected in the communiqué, NATO and the IP4 are launching tailored projects in the areas of “supporting Ukraine, cyber defense, countering disinformation, and technology.” These projects will rely on strengthened political and technical sharing of information, especially in the case of Japan, as highlighted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Australia, unlike the other IP4 countries, is already well integrated since it has been an Enhanced Opportunity Partner since 2014, which allows it to partake in regular consultations and access interoperability programs, exercises, and information sharing. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said that the steps taken this week on airworthiness certification for Korean aircraft would help ensure “mutual military compatibility” with NATO.

Second, we could see more joint messaging and signaling going forward. Kishida and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a joint statement, saying that NATO and Japan are coordinating to potentially hold joint exercises in the Euro-Atlantic region this year. In an effort to jointly work on strategic communication, Japan will dispatch new personnel to the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Latvia. 

Finally, representatives from the European Union (EU) were also present at the meeting Thursday between NATO and the IP4. Their presence reflects the complementary efforts that the bloc might play in the Indo-Pacific and in response to the growing Russia-China nexus. Stoltenberg expressed it best when he said on Wednesday that China “cannot have it both ways” if it continues to play a role in Russia’s defense expansion. NATO this week warned China that continuing to do so will generate negative consequences for “its interests and reputation.”

The EU can leverage funding, know-how, and security capabilities other than in military domains—and it has tools to impose political, economic, and reputational costs to respond to malign actors impacting its interests, including by preventing the flow of dual-use or defense technologies. While there is no consensus on it, some allies have apparently discussed taking action to reclaim some Chinese-owned infrastructure projects in Europe should a wider conflict with Russia break out, a domain that would directly concern the EU. As Campbell aims to “institutionalize” the links between the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions, building EU-NATO and US-EU consultation frameworks on China will be key in making sure the multidomain dimension of the threat is fully taken into consideration. 

JULY 12, 2024 | 9:45 AM ET

In a war of attrition, ammunition is critical, as Swedish Minister of Defence Pål Jonson underscored

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the NATO Summit emphasizes the imperative of further strengthening the Alliance to defend democracy and protect Ukraine’s sovereignty. However, to secure victory, Ukraine’s forces require a consistent flow of weapons, ammunition, and critical equipment such as air defense systems and fighter jets. NATO allies and other partners have delivered ten long-range Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, roughly 250,000 anti-tank munitions, and 359 tanks, among other critical defense capabilities. 

However, as Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson highlighted at the NATO Public Forum on Wednesday, the challenge will be for NATO members to maintain this support from a production standpoint in the months ahead. 

In the panel, moderated by the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig, Jonson called attention to the fact that Europe’s defense industrial base is shaped for peacetime. But with the ongoing war in Ukraine, stockpiles are depleting and production is not keeping pace. The 1.3 million 155mm howitzer rounds that the United States and European allies are expected to produce this year fall dreadfully short of the roughly 4.3 million shells per year that then Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said last year that Ukraine would need. The inability to reconcile this production gap hinders Ukrainian defenses and detracts from NATO’s power of deterrence. 

Although a historic twenty-three NATO members now meet the target of spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, NATO must collectively send a demand signal to the defense industry to adequately ramp up production. Lengthy lead times simply will not suffice. The solution? Jonson argues “Spending more and spending more together.”


JULY 11, 2024 | 7:45 PM ET

Dispatch from the NATO Summit: The pluses and minuses for Ukraine

This year’s NATO Summit will not be remembered as a seminal event, nor will it be remembered as a failure.

It is the eleventh summit since Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine began in 2014 and the third annual summit since Russia’s large-scale invasion in 2022. Like its ten predecessors, this summit has taken incremental steps to deal with the challenge posed by the first large-scale war in Europe since Adolf Hitler was defeated. There was progress, sure, but it was neither sufficient nor decisive.

On the plus side, the communiqué states plainly that “Russia remains the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security.” But the question is what steps NATO took this week to address that threat.

The answer came in two ways. The first was in its treatment of the NATO-Ukraine relationship. The hard fact is that neither Ukraine nor Europe will be secure until Ukraine joins NATO. Yes, the communiqué says the decision on Ukraine’s membership is “irreversible.” And it introduced steps to foster cooperation—putting a senior NATO representative in Kyiv, establishing a training program for Ukraine, and implementing a new venue for cooperation in the NATO-Ukraine Council.

But these steps are modest and contrast with the stronger interim advantages enjoyed by Sweden and Finland before they became members. For instance, why can’t the Ukrainian ambassador to NATO participate in the North Atlantic Council (NATO’s decision-making body)? And why can’t Ukrainian officials participate within the NATO apparatus? This might explain why Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, exhibited unease at the NATO Public Forum regarding the question of how he would assess the summit, before acknowledging that Ukraine was “satisfied.”

In contrast to those modest steps, there were better results from the summit in the form of security agreements Ukraine signed with NATO members and partners. While these agreements are no substitute for the protections offered by NATO’s Article 5, in some cases—such as the agreement signed with Poland—they provide additional air defense capabilities to Ukraine. These agreements also pledge long-term security aid.

The picture is also positive when it comes to the actual weapons supplies—the most immediate need—that NATO allies committed to at and around the summit. The new packages include five Patriot batteries and other sophisticated defense systems, Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and F-16 fighter jets. Collectively, this will be a major addition to Ukraine’s defense capability—even if long overdue—and a strong signal to Russia of NATO’s support for Ukraine.

This positive story, unfortunately, has been marred by a well-timed provocation by Russian President Vladimir Putin: the egregious attack on Kyiv on Monday that struck a children’s hospital. This was designed to tweak NATO and underscore to Ukrainians how vulnerable they remain. The United States could have turned this incident back on Putin if it used the occasion to remove all restrictions on the use of US weapons against targets in Russia. (Such strikes are now limited to border areas against targets that are planning imminent attacks.) Instead, the White House announced publicly that its restrictions remain in place, a decision that is bad for the people of Ukraine and for US leadership.

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JULY 11, 2024 | 5:20 PM ET

Inside the new NATO action plan for engaging with the Alliance’s neighbors to the south

Yesterday at the NATO Public Forum, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the Alliance has adopted a new action plan for its southern flank. The prime minister said NATO must do more in its southern neighborhood because instability there affects NATO allies and because adversaries—namely Russia—take advantage of that instability to pursue their interests and entrench their influence.

The action plan he outlined has three parts: First, NATO will engage in enhanced political dialogue with partners in the Middle East and Africa based on mutual respect and mutual interest. A new NATO special representative for the southern neighborhood will spearhead this effort. Second, the Alliance will enhance work with international organizations such as the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League. It will also coordinate its efforts with the European Union, which already engages in development activities in the region. Finally, Sánchez said NATO is ready to work with southern partners to do more to combat terrorism, bolster maritime security, respond to climate change, and enhance resilience.

NATO’s new action plan for working with its neighbors to the south echoes the themes of a report released in May by a group of experts reviewing NATO’s approach to such engagement. Not all will be happy with it, however. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and leading members of her government had called for a more ambitious agreement. Expect calls for more to be done on NATO’s southern flank to come at the 2025 Hague summit.

JULY 11, 2024 | 4:33 PM ET

Five reasons why Ukraine should be invited to join NATO

NATO leaders have this week declared that Ukraine’s path to membership is “irreversible,” but once again stopped short of officially inviting the country to join the alliance. This represents another missed opportunity to end the ambiguity over Kyiv’s NATO aspirations and set the stage for a return to greater international stability.

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine was high on the agenda as alliance leaders gathered in Washington DC for NATO’s three-day annual summit. This focus on Ukraine was hardly surprising. The war unleashed by Vladimir Putin in February 2022 is the largest European conflict since World War II, and poses substantial security challenges for all NATO members.

Since the invasion began almost two and a half years ago, Russia has strengthened cooperation with China, Iran, and North Korea, who all share Moscow’s commitment to undermining the existing rules-based world order. The emergence of this Authoritarian Axis has helped underline the need for a decisive NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Alliance members are acutely aware that China in particular is closely monitoring the NATO reaction to Moscow’s invasion, with any Russian success in Ukraine likely to fuel Beijing’s own expansionist ambitions in Taiwan and elsewhere.

While there is widespread recognition that the outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine will shape the future of international relations, this week’s summit confirmed that there is still no consensus within NATO over Ukrainian membership. On the contrary, the alliance appears to be deeply divided on the issue.

Objections center around the potential for a further dangerous escalation in the current confrontation with the Kremlin. Opponents argue that by inviting Ukraine to join, NATO could soon find itself at war with Russia. Meanwhile, many supporters of Ukrainian NATO membership believe keeping the country in geopolitical limbo is a mistake that only serves to embolden Moscow and prolong the war.

Read more


Jul 11, 2024

Five reasons why Ukraine should be invited to join NATO

By Paul Grod

The 2024 NATO Summit in Washington failed to produce any progress toward Ukrainian membership but there are five compelling reasons why Ukraine should be invited to join the alliance, writes Paul Grod.

Conflict European Union

JULY 11, 2024 | 3:45 PM ET

The Washington summit shows just how much the NATO-IP4 partnership has evolved

Marking the third consecutive year of attendance by Indo-Pacific Four (IP4) leaders at the NATO Summit, it is evident that this informal grouping is becoming a regular fixture of summit activities. Beyond the symbolic family photos, the substantive engagement is also evolving. With each summit, NATO and IP4 countries are presenting increasingly ambitious agendas for cooperation.

On the final day of the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened the North Atlantic Council meeting by emphasizing the “strong and deepening cooperation” between NATO and the IP4. This commitment translated into the launch of four new joint projects aimed at enhancing collaboration on assistance to Ukraine, artificial intelligence, disinformation, and cybersecurity.

Furthermore, addressing one of the central themes of the Washington summit—strengthening the transatlantic defense industrial base to tackle challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran—there has been significant discussion about the potential for IP4 countries to co-produce weapons and engage in joint maintenance of military assets.

As an observer of Australian politics, I was particularly struck by the limited international attention given to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s absence from the meeting, with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Richard Marles attending in his place. In Australia, this decision faced criticism for overlooking important geopolitical discussions, especially given that the gathering was intended to demonstrate that the world’s leading democracies stand united in their commitment to preserve the rules-based order.

A key question surrounding the future of the IP4 is whether there will be efforts to institutionalize this grouping in the coming years (although Stoltenberg stressed yesterday that NATO would not add Indo-Pacific members) and, of course, to evaluate the tangible outcomes based on the current plans for cooperation.

JULY 11, 2024 | 2:20 PM ET

Jake Sullivan previews the Ukraine Compact and takes stock of allied support for Kyiv

According to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the landscape of the conflict in Ukraine is “far different” today than it was in April, thanks to Ukraine’s battlefield progress and the various steps allies have made in support; and there’s more on the way, Sullivan said today at the NATO Public Forum.

“In a few hours, we’re going to make history again,” he said in a speech where he was introduced by Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe, explaining that over twenty allies will be joining together to launch the Ukraine Compact, a commitment to develop Ukraine’s forces and to strengthen them into the 2030s. It “makes clear that we will continue to support Ukraine in this fight,” Sullivan argued, “and we will also help build this force so it can credibly deter and defend against future aggression.”

Sullivan spoke ahead of the NATO-Ukraine Council gathering and US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later today, during which the presidents will discuss the additional assistance needed to “get the job done,” as Sullivan put it.

But getting the job done will require adjusting to “an evolving battlefield,” Sullivan warned, as warfare is “transforming before our eyes” due to Russia’s efforts to expand its defense capabilities—with help from Iran, North Korea, and China—and innovations in both tactics and technology. “Already we’re working with Ukraine to solve some of the key technological challenges,” he said. “No one should bet against our collective advantage.”

The national security advisor took stock of all that allies and partners have done to support Ukraine, both on the military side (providing artillery, air defense systems, long-range missiles, and F-16 fighter jets) and on the diplomatic side (with the Group of Seven’s decision to tap Russian sovereign assets and with NATO’s “bridge” to membership for Ukraine).

“None of the progress that we’ve seen so far was inevitable. None of it happened by accident,” he said. It took NATO allies “coming together,” he explained, “to choose again and again to stand with [Ukraine] to defend the values that have always united us as democracies: Freedom, security, sovereignty, territorial integrity.

“This is what our predecessors did for seventy-five years, and this is what we all must do in the years ahead, even when it’s tough—in fact, especially when it’s tough.”

Read the full transcript


Jul 11, 2024

The future of Europe, Ukraine, and the world order is not yet written, says the US national security advisor

By Atlantic Council

Nothing is inevitable, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at the NATO Public Forum. “It comes down to the choices that we make and the choices that we make together.”

Europe & Eurasia NATO

JULY 11, 2024 | 11:14 AM ET

UK foreign secretary: Why NATO remains core to British security

Walking into King Charles Street for the first time as foreign secretary last Friday, I passed the bust of Ernest Bevin.

Bevin was an inspirational Labour foreign secretary—and is a personal hero of mine. He was proud of his working-class origins, firmly internationalist in outlook, and committed to realism, a politics based on respect for the facts.

Nowhere was this clearer than in his role helping to create the NATO alliance seventy-five years ago, which included signing the North Atlantic Treaty in April 1949 on behalf of the United Kingdom. As foreign secretary, he was equally committed to supporting the nascent United Nations. But he recognized that “naked and unashamed” power politics would limit its ambitions. Establishing NATO therefore became central to his strategy for how to protect Britain and its allies against future aggression.

Moscow protested that this new grouping targeted them. But while Bevin made every effort to engage the Soviet Union in dialogue, he dismissed such criticism. If that was how the Kremlin felt about a defensive alliance, that said much about its intentions.

Seventy-five years on, the wisdom of Bevin’s approach is as clear as ever.

Multilateral institutions such as the United Nations remain indispensable. But they are struggling under the strain of multiple challenges. With a return of war to our continent and security threats rising, strengthening Britain’s relationships with our closest allies is firmly in the national interest.

Read more

New Atlanticist

Jul 11, 2024

UK foreign secretary: Why NATO remains core to British security

By David Lammy

With a return of war to Europe and security threats rising, strengthening Britain’s relationships with its closest allies is firmly in the national interest, writes UK Foreign Secretary David Lammy.

NATO Politics & Diplomacy

JULY 11, 2024 | 9:17 AM ET

What to expect on day two: Focus on China and rallying behind Ukraine

An eventful second day of the Washington summit is underway. Heads of state will meet with Indo-Pacific partners, the European Union, and the European Commission, followed by a session of the NATO-Ukraine Council. With yesterday’s communiqué labeling China a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, expect China to feature prominently on the agenda during the discussions with Indo-Pacific partners. NATO-EU cooperation also received significant attention in the communiqué, with emphasis on ensuring European defense efforts are complementary and interoperable with NATO, avoiding unnecessary duplication. That is reminiscent of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s three “D’s” (no diminution of NATO, no discrimination, and no duplication) regarding European defense ambitions. As the European Union gradually emerges from its election cycle, the new Commission’s defense ambitions will be under particular scrutiny.

Allied leaders will also meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the NATO-Ukraine Council. Following yesterday’s announcement of a minimum baseline funding of forty billion euros within the next year, more air defense systems, and F-16s for Ukraine, discussions will focus on reaffirming that Ukraine’s future lies in NATO. Expect talks on speeding up aid, allowing the use of allied weapons for striking targets deeper in Russia, and adopting a more forceful stance in support of Ukraine.


JULY 10, 2024 | 8:01 PM ET

Dispatch from the NATO Summit: Celebration—with a tinge of frustration and worry

One day into the summit, there is already much to celebrate (beyond the Alliance’s seventy-five years, which of course is no small feat).

The final communiqué calls Ukraine’s pathway toward NATO “irreversible.” For a consensus-based organization, that’s a big deal. On top of that, we can finally see Ukraine’s “bridge” to NATO membership taking form, with the Alliance vowing to station a senior civilian in Kyiv and to set up a command in Wiesbaden, Germany for coordinating security assistance and training—with allies agreeing to send the Ukrainians a package of new air defense systems, including four Patriot batteries.

But with allied leaders saying the bridge will be short and well-lit, major questions remain about the duration and lighting. And what happens between now and Ukraine’s eventual membership, which could still be decades away?

From my conversations around town, I’m gathering that there’s also a sense of frustration amid the celebrations. Thus far there have been no announcements that the United States is willing to loosen the restrictions on how the Ukrainians can use US-supplied weapons. People seem frustrated that Ukraine can’t strike deep inside Russia, and there’s a feeling that the United States is making Ukrainians fight with one hand tied behind their backs.

There is also a somewhat somber mood regarding the US election. US President Joe Biden’s speech last night at the summit kickoff was strong and presidential, but there’s still some doubt about whether he has what it takes to pull off a win in November. And a loss for Biden means a win for former US President Donald Trump, which further rattles already-nervous Europeans. What I’ve been saying to them here at the summit is this: Tell NATO’s story, because it’s a good one. Keep increasing defense spending; twenty-three out of thirty-two allies are now spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, an increase from nine allies when Biden took office. And keep shouldering more of the defense burden for the European continent. This is likely what Europeans will wind up needing to do anyway, so best to start now.

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JULY 10, 2024 | 6:48 PM ET

Our experts read between the lines of NATO’s Washington summit communiqué

What can thirty-two allies accomplish in forty-four paragraphs? NATO leaders on Wednesday afternoon released the Washington Summit Declaration, a consensus document setting forth what the Alliance stands for. In the case of Ukraine, it lays out a “bridge” to membership and a long-term financial commitment, but stops short of declaring when the country will be formally invited into the Alliance, as it continues to battle Russia’s full-scale invasion. The document is also notably tough on China, which it describes as the “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Our experts dig into the fine print below to break down what’s in the communiqué—and what isn’t.

New Atlanticist

Jul 10, 2024

Our experts read between the lines of NATO’s Washington summit communiqué

By Atlantic Council experts

Atlantic Council experts offer their insights on NATO’s Washington Summit Declaration, released on Wednesday during the Alliance’s seventy-fifth-anniversary meeting in the US capital.

China Europe & Eurasia

Watch our experts give their takes

JULY 10, 2024 | 3:51 PM ET

An exclusive look behind the scenes, courtesy of Philippe Dickinson

Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative Philippe Dickinson takes viewers behind the scenes of the NATO Public Forum, where allied leaders are discussing the issues at the top of NATO’s agenda.

JULY 10, 2024 | 3:23 PM ET

How Russian aggression is transforming European security 

Amid ongoing discussions on the nature of the “bridge” to Ukraine’s NATO membership, what should be the criteria for a successful Washington summit in terms of the Alliance’s support for Kyiv?

“Success is that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin makes a call to his defense minister and tells him to get out of Ukraine,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski today at the NATO Public Forum, where he was joined by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielus Landsbergis and Micael Johansson, the president and CEO of Saab, for a panel moderated by Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Jenna Ben-Yehuda. 

In the more immediate future, NATO needs to give Ukraine “a very clear commitment” that “we are serious about the invitation,” Landsbergis said. Ultimately, though, Landsbergis echoed Sikorski’s answer on what constitutes success for the Alliance. “If it’s not a victory,” for Ukraine “then it’s a loss. If it’s a loss, it’s our loss,” not just Ukraine’s, he said. 

Both Sikorski and Landsbergis cited their countries’ history and geography when noting their increases in defense spending. Landsbergis highlighted that in the Baltic region, “there is no big debate whether we should be funding our defense,” touting Lithuania’s commitment to spend 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Sikorski added, “We will do whatever it takes not to be a Russian colony again, irrespective of what anybody else does.” 

When it comes to the private sector’s role in bolstering European security, Johansson called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “huge wake-up call” for industry. Johansson noted that the European defense industry is “there to support” Ukraine, but outlined some of the obstacles to a better defense investment climate on the continent. One solution to this, he noted, would be for NATO to more clearly outline its capability requirements over a ten-to-fifteen-year timeframe to justify longer-term investments. He also argued that greater European Union (EU) defense investment would help persuade the European defense industry, whose leadership was shaped by a “peace dividend period,” that defense spending will remain high into the future.

While the Washington summit is focused on European security, Sikorski sees an emerging threat from Russia taking shape in Africa. “This business of Russian mercenaries taking over African resources” and destabilizing African nations “has to end.” To counter this threat, Sikorski recommended using an EU rapid reaction force, which he hopes will be operational in a few years. “We don’t need to beg the United States to solve every problem for us,” he said.

At the same time, Landsbergis emphasized that in the event of major global conflicts, neither the United States nor Europe could act effectively alone. “We need these two pillars of the transatlantic alliance working together,” he said.

Note: Saab is a corporate partner for the NATO Public Forum. More information on forum sponsors can be found here.

JULY 10, 2024 | 2:45 PM ET

Beyond the Beltway, Americans’ support for NATO remains strong

NATO is all over Washington, DC, this week. Rows of blue banners adorn lampposts announcing the summit. Heads of state and government have been spotted weaving through the streets in motorcades. On Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg even threw out the opening pitch at a Nationals baseball game.

It would be easy in all this DC-based activity to overlook an important fact: Americans’ support for NATO extends well beyond the US capital. According to the latest polling among a nationwide sample of the US public by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a strong majority—67 percent—of Americans say NATO remains “essential” to US security. Chicago Council polling from last year shows that an even larger share, 78 percent, say the United States should increase or maintain its current support of the Alliance. Moreover, this support is broadly bipartisan, with 92 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans saying the United States should increase or maintain support. 

Americans’ support for NATO extends across generations as well as across the political aisle. As the Chicago Council’s June poll reveals, 70 percent of Baby Boomers view NATO as “essential” to US security—but so do 67 percent of Generation Z, all of whom were born after the end of the Cold War. Three-quarters or more or respondents across generations—Silent, Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial, and Generation Z— told the Chicago Council last year that they favor maintaining or increasing the US commitment to NATO.

Finally, on the important question of NATO’s Article 5 collective-defense guarantee, majorities of respondents across all generations (though only a slim majority of Millennials) said last year that they would support US troops defending NATO allies Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia if Russia invaded. Many Americans, it seems, agree with what US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said this morning: “NATO has always stood by us, and we’re going to stand by NATO.”

JULY 10, 2024 | 1:36 PM

Stoltenberg: If China continues enabling Russia, it can’t expect a “normal relationship” with NATO allies 

“The paradox is that the stronger and the more we are committed [to] long-term support to Ukraine, the sooner this war can end,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. 

Stoltenberg spoke with Atlantic Council President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Kempe at the NATO Public Forum, saying that he expected allies to, within hours, agree on a “bridge” to NATO membership that aims to bring Ukraine’s defense systems and infrastructure closer to those in the Alliance. With the bridge in place, the hope is that once NATO extends an invitation to Ukraine, “they can become members straight away,” Stoltenberg said. 

Stoltenberg said that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would help stop Russia’s “pattern of aggression”—in which it has violated ceasefire agreements and continued to illegally annex portions of Ukraine. “When the fighting stops, we need to ensure that Ukraine has the capabilities to deter future aggression from Russia, and they need security guarantees,” he explained. “And, of course, the best and strongest security guarantee will be Article 5.” 

Stoltenberg said that “China is the main enabler” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, with China continuing to sell Russia tools and technology that Moscow is using to produce its weaponry. “If China continues, they cannot have it both ways,” Stoltenberg warned. “They cannot believe that they can have a kind of normal relationship with NATO allies . . . and then continue to fuel the war in Europe.” 

One of the major developments over Stoltenberg’s decade as secretary general is closer engagement with the Alliance’s Indo-Pacific partners. “The threats and challenges that China poses to our security is a global challenge,” Stoltenberg argued, adding that the Alliance is facing more and more global challenges—from cyberwarfare to space-security threats. During the Washington summit, Stoltenberg said, NATO and its global partners are working on flagship projects related to technology and supporting Ukraine. Still, he stressed that NATO will not add Indo-Pacific members. “We will remain a regional alliance, but we need to work with our global partners . . . to address these global challenges.” 

With a potential change in administrations raising concern about the United States’ role in NATO, Stoltenberg said he is “an optimist,” reminding the audience that over the course of NATO’s seventy-five years, similar concerns have cropped up as elections took place in various allied countries. But, he said, “we have proven extremely resilient and strong . . . all these different governments and politicians and parliamentarians—they realize that we are safer and stronger together.” 

Read the full transcript


Jul 10, 2024

‘I’m an optimist for the future of this Alliance,’ says NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

By Atlantic Council

The outgoing NATO secretary general spoke with Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe at the NATO Public Forum on July 10.

Defense Policy Europe & Eurasia

JULY 10, 2024 | 1:04 PM ET

What is Poland’s role in Euro-Atlantic security?

Atlantic Council Fellow Rachel Rizzo sits down with Szymon Hołownia, marshal of Poland’s Sejm, to discuss the role of Poland in Europe, expectations for the NATO summit, and the implications of the US election for relations with Washington.

JULY 10, 2024 | 12:56 PM ET

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the ‘blunt military reality’ about NATO

“I’ve never seen NATO stronger or more united than it is today,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at the NATO Public Forum this morning. “And we are determined to keep it that way.”

To help keep it that way, the US defense secretary outlined an “ambitious” agenda that heads of state and government from NATO’s thirty-two allies would tackle at the Washington summit this week.

First, Austin said, the Alliance will continue to implement its so-called “family of plans” to ensure the defense of “every inch” of NATO. This “family” includes (as the Atlantic Council’s Luka Ignac has explained) three regional defense strategies for the Alliance covering the Atlantic and European Arctic, the Baltic region and Central Europe, and the Mediterranean and Black seas. It also includes an array of subordinate plans covering areas such as cyber and space. Austin called this new defensive strategy for the Alliance the “most robust since the Cold War.”

Second, NATO allies will pledge this week to expand industrial capacity across the Alliance. This is intended to help scale up much-needed military production and to send signals to industry as it makes long-term decisions about where to focus its attention and resources.

Third, NATO this week aims to deepen its cooperation in support of Ukraine’s self-defense, Austin said. This includes a new effort by the Alliance to help coordinate some aspects of security assistance and training for Ukraine. 

Austin was unequivocal in his condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “imperial invasion” of Ukraine. He likened it to the “sickening blow of unprovoked aggression” that US President Harry S. Truman, referencing the first and second world wars, spoke about at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949. “We will not be dragged into Putin’s reckless war of choice,” Austin said. “But we will stand by Ukraine as it fights for its sovereignty and security,” he added, noting that F-16 fighter aircraft were at that moment on their way to Ukrainian forces. 

Fourth, Austin said that the Alliance will seek to deepen cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. “I know that we’re all troubled by China’s support for Putin’s war against Ukraine,” Austin said. “That just reminds us of the profound links between Euro-Atlantic security and Indo-Pacific security.” This is the third year in a row that leaders of Japan and South Korea are attending the annual NATO Summit.

Austin’s speech underscored the wide-ranging nature of the challenges that the Alliance faces today. As Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe said when introducing Austin, “The secretary of defense is facing more simultaneous challenges than perhaps any predecessor.” 

The room was filled with visitors from across the Alliance and the world. But Austin saved his final words for an audience closer to home: Americans. 

“Here’s the blunt military reality,” said a man who spent forty-one years in uniform before becoming US secretary of defense. “America is stronger with our allies. America is safer with our allies. And America is more secure with our allies.

“And any attempt to undermine NATO only undermines American security.” 

Read the full transcript


Jul 10, 2024

Any attempt to undermine NATO undermines US security, says Lloyd Austin

By Atlantic Council

At the Washington summit, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed NATO’s history and the Alliance’s plans to bolster support for Ukraine.

Defense Policy Europe & Eurasia

JULY 10, 2024 | 12:30 PM ET

A fond (and substantive) farewell from Stoltenberg

Outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was first up after the coffee break at the NATO Public Forum this morning. Appearing in conversation with Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe, Stoltenberg came on stage caffeinated and animated, sitting forward in his chair, joking about his first pitch at the Washington Nationals game earlier this week and reminiscing on his longevity in the role.

His main announcement was the (likely) five-pillared package of support for Ukraine that he expected to be announced at the summit, comprising of:

  1. Institutionalized assistance to Ukraine, in the form of a new command in Wiesbaden, Germany, staffed with seven hundred NATO personnel to coordinate training and assistance to Ukraine;
  2. A new “substantial” long-term aid package to Kyiv;
  3. Additional military support, including air defense systems and F-16 fighter jets that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced were currently being transferred to Ukraine;
  4. At least twenty bilateral security agreements between Ukraine and NATO members;
  5. Enhanced interoperability between NATO and Ukraine.

Reflecting on his involvement with NATO summits dating back to 2001, the secretary general projected an optimistic tone for the future of the Alliance. He has made incredible contributions to NATO over those twenty-three years. And the mutual affection was evident in the room, with a warm and prolonged standing ovation to send him on his way back across the street to the summit.

JULY 10, 2024 | 10:35 AM ET

Biden’s and Stoltenberg’s rousing kickoff speeches should linger in leaders’ heads

Sitting in the auditorium where NATO was born for Tuesday night’s official opening for the NATO Summit, it was hard not to be inspired by the unity and symbolism on display. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave one of the most forceful speeches of his career. “Everyone in this room has a responsibility, as political leaders, as experts, as citizens,” he said. “We must show the same courage and determination in the future, as was demonstrated in the past when NATO was founded and shaped.”

Stoltenberg was followed by an equally passionate address from US President Joe Biden, who announced a donation of new air defenses for Ukraine and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stoltenberg. Biden also extolled the virtues of the Alliance, pointing out how polls show that Americans in both parties back NATO. “And the American people understand what would happen if there was no NATO: Another war in Europe, American troops fighting and dying, dictators spreading chaos, economic collapse, catastrophe,” Biden said. “Americans, they know we’re stronger with our friends. And we understand this is a sacred obligation.”

Both leaders gave it their all. Now that the celebration is over, the hard work begins. Friendship, as both leaders noted, takes work, but we are ultimately stronger for it. Defending our shared future requires Europe to step up and do more on deterrence and defense, alongside the United States. As the summit continues, Biden’s and Stoltenberg’s words should be ringing in their fellow leaders’ ears.

JULY 10, 2024 | 10:01 AM ET

Allies launch new initiative to aid Ukrainian servicewomen

Yesterday, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Irene Fellin and the US State Department co-hosted a WPS roundtable, one of only two official side events at the Washington summit. A dedicated event focused on advancing WPS at NATO has become a fixture of the past three summits. But this WPS roundtable was different. 

As Russia continues its war of aggression against Ukraine with no end in sight, allies reaffirmed their commitment to the WPS agenda. But this year, several allies put their words into action by funding ten thousand specialized gear sets for women in the Ukrainian armed forces. This initiative was supported by the United States with financial contributions through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, and Norway. For allies that want to do more for WPS and Ukraine but have minimal resources to contribute, funding for women’s gear for the Ukrainian armed forces costs a small fraction of the forty billion euros in military aid that allies have pledged to Ukraine in the coming year. NATO should certainly celebrate this win, since ill-fitting gear has placed Ukrainian servicewomen at increased risk of injury on the battlefield. 

As NATO launches its plan for Ukraine’s “bridge to membership” this week, funding gear for women in the Ukrainian armed forces will remain a low-cost, high-impact effort that puts allied commitments for both WPS and Ukraine into action. That said, allies must also remember that this is one of several options on the table for advancing WPS within their continued support to Ukraine. It will be interesting to see how committed allies will be to including WPS considerations within efforts to shore up Ukraine’s defense capabilities, institution building, and military interoperability over the next year.

JULY 10, 2024 | 8:31 AM ET

What will NATO leaders make of Orbán’s “peace missions”?

May you live in interesting times, the old saying goes, but what about living in the weirdest of times? Reflecting the strangeness of the current situation in international politics, one of the leaders of NATO arrived in Washington on Tuesday to attend the Alliance’s historic summit straight from visiting the capitals of NATO’s main adversaries, and just shortly after criticizing NATO and its leaders for being “pro-war” in a Newsweek op-ed.

Less than a week into holding the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU), Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has been jet-setting around the world to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, purportedly on a “peace mission” to help negotiate the ending of the war in Ukraine. In Beijing, Orbán endorsed Xi’s twelve-point peace plan for Ukraine and highlighted that Hungary will use the EU presidency “as an opportunity to actively promote the sound development of EU-China relations,” i.e. to de-escalate EU-China trade tensions and to reverse the shift to de-risking.

EU, US, and NATO leaders have been quick to condemn Orbán for his visits to Moscow and Beijing, with the representatives of the European Union also fuming at the suggestion that the Hungarian leader negotiated as “the president of the EU.”

Orbán landed in Washington with NATO allies planning to give Ukraine the necessary help for its self-defense and a “bridge to NATO membership” by setting up a new NATO command in charge of supplying arms and military aid to Kyiv.

One of the big questions swirling around the Washington summit, then, is how much further allied leaders will go in responding to one of their own going completely rogue. Another is whether Orbán will sign off at the summit on more support for Ukraine in a war that has just seen some of its bloodiest days.

But it’s worth noting that none of this is terribly new. Since the breakout of Putin’s war, Hungary has opposed Western support for Ukraine and refused to provide weapons or allow other countries to transport weapons to Ukraine through Hungarian territory. Under Orbán’s leadership, Hungary has oriented its foreign policy around Russian and Chinese interests since 2014, doing the two powers’ bidding inside the European Union and NATO and becoming increasingly hostile to the leaders of the United States and the EU. For a NATO ally, Hungary’s behavior has been strange for quite a while, but these days we are seeing even stranger things.


JULY 9, 2024 | 6:31 PM ET

Dispatch from the NATO Summit: Learn from front-line allies

In my past job as a NATO official, I helped prepare for several of these summits, but none of them was quite like this one. This summit needs to deliver strong outcomes—not only because it’s the Alliance’s seventy-fifth anniversary, but also because we are in Washington (with the US presidential race heating up) and the world is proving more and more volatile, dangerous, and uncertain.

That’s probably weighing heavily on the allied leaders who are crowding Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium this evening for the official summit opening, hosted by US President Joe Biden. For several of those officials—specifically eight from Nordic and Baltic countries—their first stop today was Atlantic Council headquarters, to discuss cooperation in NATO’s northeast.

It is the easternmost and northernmost allies—including my home of Lithuania, where I served as deputy defense minister—that intimately understand the nature of the Russian threat. Because of that common understanding, these countries demand more from themselves: All of them (except Iceland, which doesn’t have a standing military) exceed the NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.

The Nordic-Baltic agenda for the summit rests primarily on making sure the rest of the Alliance feels that sense of urgency. I’ll be watching closely to see whether NATO increases its defense budget targets and produces clarity on Ukraine’s path to joining the Alliance. But the Nordic-Baltic agenda also includes committing capabilities to implement NATO’s defense plans that were agreed to last year in Vilnius, and reaffirming US leadership in NATO while “future-proofing”—not just “Trump-proofing,” as many are saying—the Alliance with strong commitments from Europe.

The communiqué released at the end of this summit will include dozens of carefully written paragraphs agreed to by consensus. Yet eloquent writing cannot make up for a lack of concrete decisions on capabilities, Ukraine, and investments.

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JULY 9, 2024 | 5:32 PM ET

How NATO can prove its enduring relevance at the Washington summit

In a dangerous world, NATO’s role has never been more important. Yet, to remain relevant, the Alliance needs to adapt to today’s security challenges at greater scale and speed. After Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, it took three years for NATO to deploy the enhanced Forward Presence battalions in Central and Eastern Europe. Now, two-and-a-half years into Russia’s full-scale invasion, the allies have neither defined Ukraine’s path to NATO membership nor delivered what Ukraine needs to win. This “too little, too late” approach from NATO neglects the security interests of member states and empowers the Alliance’s adversaries.

At the latest NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Prague, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised Ukraine a “bridge” to NATO. For a start, US President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Italy delivered a three-pronged blow to Moscow­—a new package of sanctions targeting Russia’s financial sector, a fifty billion dollar loan to Ukraine from several nations backed by payments from Russia’s immobilized assets, and a new bilateral US-Ukraine security pact to ensure long-term aid.

Additionally, NATO’s new report on defense spending shows that twenty-three out of thirty-two allies are on pace to meet the 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) benchmark for defense spending this year. As Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted, twenty-three allies is “more than twice as many as four years ago and demonstrates that European allies and Canada are really stepping up and taking their share of the common responsibility to protect all of us in the NATO alliance.”

These are positive steps, but they do not solve the lack of speed and scale that plagues NATO’s decision making. NATO should tackle three big sets of deliverables at the Washington summit that began today. At the summit, the Alliance should invite Ukraine to start accession talks, augment military support to Kyiv, and substantially elevate member states’ defense budgets to reach a collective 3 percent of GDP, with an allocation of 0.25 percent of GDP to Ukraine’s military assistance. Only then will NATO be operating at the appropriate speed and scale to address the Alliance’s security challenges and deter further threats from its adversaries.

Read more

New Atlanticist

Jul 9, 2024

How NATO can prove its enduring relevance at the Washington summit

By Giedrimas Jeglinskas

Allies must do more to augment Ukraine’s warfighting capabilities and bring it into the Alliance, as well as boost their own spending on defense.

Europe & Eurasia NATO

JULY 9, 2024 | 4:05 PM ET

A Nordic-Baltic message to Washington: Future-proofing NATO begins in Ukraine 

The security environment has changed in the Nordic and Baltic regions, not only with Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but also with the rise of cyber and information threats and with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

“In a sense, it’s the old mission coming back with a vengeance,” said Norway’s foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, at an Atlantic Council event on Tuesday. “And if we didn’t have NATO, we’d have to invent it immediately.” 

Each of the eight Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers and senior officials gathered for the event agreed that they now feel safer with Sweden and Finland having joined the Alliance. Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, noted that it was like a “coming home” for them, as joining NATO capped off a thirty-year process of growing closer to the Alliance. Political State Secretary of Finland Pasi Rajala said that joining has been a “big mind shift” for Finns, who have come to realize that they are “no longer alone” in defense. 

As Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, several speakers argued, continued coordination with each other—and the United States—will be important. “The policy of Russia is war. It’s not going to go away for the next few years,” said Latvia’s foreign minister, Baiba Braže. “So the actions that we take in that regard . . . we need the US to be with us on that.” 

As the NATO Summit begins in Washington, Braže said that she would remind the United States that “they have reliable allies” in NATO. “I think that is something that is very important to internalize for any leading American politician on any side of the aisle,” she said. 

Iceland’s foreign minister, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, agreed, saying that the United States also “needs to know that they need true friends and allies.” Rajala added that “NATO is not charity; it’s a two-way street.” 

The prospect of former President Donald Trump’s return to office has raised concerns in Europe about the White House’s prioritization of NATO and support for Ukraine after the November elections. Lars Løkke Rasmussen—Denmark’s foreign minister—said that “instead of discussing whether we can ‘Trump-proof’ things, we should discuss whether we could future-proof things.” Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, warned that focusing on “just an election” doesn’t answer the question of how allies will “meet this inflection point” in history marked by Russia’s aggression. 

The war in Ukraine has “highlighted the need to step up,” Estonian Undersecretary for Political Affairs Kyllike Sillaste-Elling added. “We don’t have the luxury of waiting anymore. We need to build up NATO’s defense posture.” That can be done by spending more on defense, she added, and ensuring that NATO’s defense plans are able to be implemented.  

Barth Eide argued that the Nordic and Baltic countries have a “responsibility” for maintaining American public support for the idea that backing Ukraine is important for global security. “Because if you live in Europe, it’s hard not to notice what’s happening in Russia. It might not be that obvious in the Midwest or in the deep South of America, we understand that,” he said. “We should also be part of that conversation that this is a good investment for you.”

Watch the full event

JULY 9, 2024 | 1:56 PM ET

So what’s the strategy for NATO?

Host Matthew Kroenig dives into NATO’s effectiveness and strategic posture, with the help of Benedetta Berti, the head of policy planning in the Office of the Secretary General at NATO.

Watch the full episode on ACTV.

JULY 9, 2024 | 1:07 PM ET

NATO needs a strategy to address Russia’s Arctic expansion

This week, NATO is holding its landmark seventy-fifth anniversary summit. The Washington, DC, event is expected to focus on trade security, the war in Ukraine, and the organization’s greatest adversary, Russia. This comes on the heels of news that a record twenty-three out of thirty-two NATO countries will reach the Alliance’s defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to NATO statistics published on June 17. This increase in spending is in large part a direct response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

At the same time, the danger Russia poses extends well beyond Eastern Europe. The Washington summit provides the Alliance an opportune moment to develop a strategy to address Russia’s growing, and unsettling, Arctic presence, which is connected with Moscow’s complex cooperation with China in the region and with new sea lanes opening due to accelerated ice melting in the region. 

Russia has long viewed the Arctic as a crucial source of income, national pride, and strategic importance. The Russian military has continued to establish an outsized Arctic presence even during its war in Ukraine, now consisting of the Northern Fleet, nuclear submarines, radar stations, airfields, and missile facilities. A large share of this presence is concentrated in the Kola Peninsula, near NATO allies Finland, Sweden, and Norway. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Russia operates one-third more military bases in the Arctic Circle than all NATO members put together. 

Read more

New Atlanticist

Jul 9, 2024

NATO needs a strategy to address Russia’s Arctic expansion

By David Babikian and Julia Nesheiwat

The Washington summit this week provides the perfect moment for the Alliance to forge an even more unified approach to the future of security in the High North. 

Geopolitics & Energy Security Maritime Security

JULY 9, 2024 | 12:49 PM ET

Inflection Points Today: The split screens haunting the NATO Summit

The split screen was the devastating work of Vladimir Putin. On one side, a barrage of Russian missile strikes hit Ukraine, and rescue workers search for survivors at Kyiv’s finest children’s hospital. On the other side, heads of state and government arrive in Washington for NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary summit, the world’s most powerful alliance being shown by Putin as unable to save Ukrainian children.

Another screen shows a NATO leader, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, paying homage to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, following his visit with Putin in Moscow. The next screen shows the leader of the world’s most populous democracy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, making his first visit to Moscow since Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Yet another screen shows US President Joe Biden looking lost in his presidential debate, raising new concerns about what his health means for NATO’s future.

No one can convince me it was a coincidence that Putin chose Monday, the eve of the NATO Summit, to launch one of his largest recent barrages of missiles on Ukraine. The leaders of Hungary and India both knew the significance of the timing of their visits—one by the Alliance’s most rogue member and the other by a major power keen to underscore its autonomy of action.

Read more

Inflection Points Today

Jul 9, 2024

Putin, Xi, Orbán, and Modi provide a disturbing backdrop to the start of the NATO Summit

By Frederick Kempe

The split screens haunting the NATO Summit include a deadly attack on a children’s hospital and meetings with autocrats in Moscow and Beijing.

China Europe & Eurasia

JULY 9, 2024 | 12:47 PM ET

For NATO, this summit is more than an anniversary—it’s a homecoming

This evening, US President Joe Biden will host heads of state and government, minister-level officials, and civil-society and private-sector representatives to officially open the NATO Summit. But it’s not only the attendees and the reason for gathering that give this event its monumental significance—it’s also the venue.

In recognition of NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the White House selected the historic Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium as the location for tonight’s occasion. At that site seventy-five years ago (or more specifically, on April 4, 1949) then US President Harry S. Truman convened with eleven allies—Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom—in signing the historic North Atlantic Treaty, enshrining the principals of collective defense and transforming the global order in the aftermath of World War II.

Since then, the world has changed dramatically. In seventy-five years, NATO now includes thirty-two highly capable allies committed to transatlantic cooperation. Defense investments are at record-breaking highs with two-thirds of NATO member states now reaching the spending benchmark of 2 percent of their gross domestic product. The Alliance is deepening its ties with partners in the Indo-Pacific to protect the rules-based international order and counter rising cooperation between Russia and its allies.

In many ways, tonight will be a homecoming for the Alliance—one that marks an important milestone for NATO and offers allied leaders the opportunity to reflect on seventy-five years of expanding coordination on deterrence and defense.

JULY 9, 2024 | 12:03 PM ET

Dispatch from Madrid: For Spain’s contributions to NATO, look beyond its defense spending

NATO’s recent defense expenditure report was a cringeworthy moment in Madrid. Despite self-applauding recent years of defense spending growth, Spain had the unenviable distinction of ranking dead last among Alliance members for defense expenditures as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), clocking in at an estimated 1.28 percent for 2024. Although consistently investing in equipment expenditures at or above the NATO guideline of 20 percent of its defense budget, Spain’s inability to spend on defense at a rate agreed upon by allies will lend credence to naysayers who question its commitment to the Alliance.

However, while Spain unambiguously falls short of the 2 percent of GDP metric, a careful look at Madrid’s commitment to transatlantic security shows that Spain not only actively participates in the Alliance’s military operations, it also enthusiastically leads NATO missions and supports Ukraine while helping guard Europe’s southern flank.

Read more

New Atlanticist

Jul 9, 2024

Dispatch from Madrid: For Spain’s contributions to NATO, look beyond its defense spending

By Andrew Bernard

While Spain still falls short of its defense spending goals, Madrid nevertheless leads NATO missions, supports Ukraine, and helps guard Europe’s southern flank.

Defense Industry Defense Policy

JULY 9, 2024 | 9:15 AM ET

The NSC’s Michael Carpenter details Ukraine’s “bridge to membership”

On the eve of the NATO Summit, US National Security Council’s Michael Carpenter broke down one of the summit’s biggest expected outcomes on Monday at the Atlantic Council: Ukraine’s “bridge to membership.” 

“We have a meaty, solid deliverable for Ukraine” that includes support for training and force development, a new senior civilian representative in Kyiv, and bilateral financial pledges, Carpenter explained. “We want Ukraine to have the capabilities, the readiness, to be able to essentially plug and play with the rest of the Alliance on day one when they get the invitation.”

Carpenter appeared at a curtain-raiser event held by the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative. He spoke alongside Benedetta Berti, head of policy planning at NATO, and Matthew Kroenig, vice president and senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.  

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made clear that “spending in defense is not a luxury,” but rather it “is incredibly essential,” Berti said. In preparing for “resourcing our defense plans,” she explained, “a number of countries” will need to spend more than 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. But “the trajectory is positive,” she said; “they understand that 2 percent truly is the bottom, the bare minimum.” 

Ahead of US elections in November, the prospect of a new administration is raising concerns about the United States’ role in NATO. Kroenig noted that while former President Donald Trump has had “some tough words” for NATO allies, so too did former Democratic administrations. He then pointed to a study that found broad support for NATO across the US political spectrum. “The support for NATO is bipartisan and strong,” he said, “stronger than some people might think looking at the headlines.” 

Watch the full event


JULY 8, 2024 | 5:32 PM ET

Dispatch from the NATO Summit: What to watch this week, beyond the political fireworks

Just last week, the roads in Washington were packed with fireworks-seeking Americans celebrating the Fourth of July. Now, several downtown roads are closed and NATO flags wave in the rare breeze. Thanks to the many workers who toiled in baking heat, this city is ready for the NATO Summit.

Washington is hosting the summit for the first time since 1999—a geopolitical lifetime ago. This year is NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary, and there is a sense of anticipation that this could be a make-or-break summit for the Alliance.

There will be a lot of focus on politics—and not just because the summit is taking place in politics-obsessed Washington (where residents form long lines outside bars for presidential-debate watch parties). One of NATO’s major goals will be to project unity. On this front, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s unexpected trips to Moscow and Beijing in recent days haven’t helped.

Ukraine and the defining question of its future membership in NATO will test the display of unity. The White House has talked about building a “bridge to membership” for Ukraine. At Atlantic Council headquarters this afternoon, the US National Security Council’s Mike Carpenter hinted at what that bridge would be made of: financial pledges, numerous bilateral security agreements, and a new senior NATO civilian post in Kyiv.

But NATO is a military alliance as well as a political one. Tangible progress on military planning efforts might not get the headlines, but it will be consequential for NATO’s ability to deter aggression. NATO nerds will be keeping an eye out for how the Alliance operationalizes NATO’s regional plans, develops its multi-domain warfighting abilities, reforms its command-and-control structure, and refines how allied militaries quickly work together in a crisis.

As a co-host of the NATO Public Forum, the Atlantic Council will be at the heart of the action, guiding allied leaders and senior officials in conversations about the top issues on the agenda.

To receive our dispatches from the NATO Summit directly in your inbox, subscribe here.

JULY 8, 2024 | 2:37 PM ET

Memo to NATO leaders: Why and how NATO countries should engage in the Indo-Pacific

Though all eyes will be on Ukraine as NATO leaders gather in Washington this week, the Alliance cannot afford to ignore the Indo-Pacific. The United States and its allies face what is perhaps the most daunting international security environment since World War II. Revisionist autocracies—China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran—are working together to disrupt and displace the US-led, rules-based international system, including through military aggression and coercion. The challenge facing the free world, therefore, is how to simultaneously counter multiple adversaries in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

Some analysts argue that the United States should disengage from Europe and pivot to the Indo-Pacific, while European countries take on greater responsibility in Europe, but this is the wrong answer. Instead, Washington should continue to lead in both theaters. European countries should take on greater responsibilities for defending Europe, but they should also assist Washington to counter China and address threats emanating from the Indo-Pacific . . .

We propose the following actions for NATO and its constituent members to bolster cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners and build around US efforts to secure the Indo-Pacific region. Some of these initiatives are already underway, but there is room to both intensify these activities and expand them to include fuller participation from additional transatlantic partners.

Read their recommendations

Memo to…

Jul 8, 2024

Memo to NATO leaders: Why and how NATO countries should engage in the Indo-Pacific

By Matthew Kroenig, Jeffrey Cimmino

NATO and its constituent members must bolster cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners and build around existing US efforts to secure the Indo-Pacific region.

Europe & Eurasia Indo-Pacific

JULY 8, 2024 | 12:55 PM ET

Who’s at 2 percent? Look how NATO allies have increased their defense spending since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This week, NATO allies will gather in Washington DC, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Alliance. Many of those allies have historically failed to meet the NATO target, set in 2014, of allocating 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defense, even as the United States in particular has pushed for more defense investment for the sake of burden sharing across the Alliance. However, this year, a record number of countries have stepped up. Out of the thirty-two NATO allies, twenty-three now meet the 2 percent target, up from just six countries in 2021. 

This surge in defense spending follows Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The war in Ukraine has prompted an unprecedented 18 percent increase in defense spending this year among NATO allies across Europe and Canada. In total, NATO countries now meet the 2 percent target, together spending 2.71 percent of their GDP on defense. This creates positive momentum and success to build on for the Washington summit, which is expected to highlight the Alliance’s collective strength and focus on deeper integration with Ukraine. 

Poland stands out as the biggest spender, allocating 4.12 percent of its GDP to defense. Sweden has also increased its defense spending dramatically since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Washington summit will witness Sweden’s first participation in a NATO summit as an official NATO member, following its accession in March.  

As NATO celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary, the large increase in defense spending can help renew the Alliance’s unity and strength to continue supporting Ukraine and be prepared for the future. 

JULY 8, 2024 | 12:36 PM ET

The three items at the top of NATO’s summit agenda

Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe joins CNBC to outline what he expects allied leaders will tackle at the summit: deterrence and defense, Ukraine’s path forward with NATO, and the Alliance’s relationship with its Indo-Pacific partners.

JULY 8, 2024 | 12:18 PM ET

What to expect at the NATO Summit in Washington

Our experts Ian Brzezinski, Kristen Taylor, and Ryan Arick break down what to expect as allies gather this week: new defense plans, efforts to step up defense-industry production, support for Ukraine, and more.

JULY 8, 2024 | 7:05 AM ET

Inflection Points: The NATO Summit faces three simultaneous threats

Amid the noise accompanying NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary summit in Washington this week—with the backdrop of growing concerns over US President Joe Biden’s health—you can be excused if you missed last week’s meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kazakhstan.

The SCO’s ten member countries, led by China and Russia, reached twenty-five agreements on enhancing cooperation in energy, security, trade, finance, and information security, including the adoption of something expansively called the “Initiative on World Unity for Just Peace, Harmony, and Development.”

Western leaders often roll their eyes at the lofty language and empty agreements of the SCO, which was invented in 2001. However, it would be a mistake to ignore the intention behind the SCO’s ambition to be a counterweight to NATO and a piece of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s larger goals to supplant the existing global order of rules and institutions with something more to their own liking . . .

Even if one sets the SCO meeting entirely to the side, NATO leaders this week confront three simultaneous but underestimated threats, none of them explicitly on their agenda.

These threats are: (1) considerably increased coordination, particularly in the defense-industrial realm, among adversarial autocracies; (2) continued and growing weaknesses among democracies (underscored in the Atlantic Council’s newest edition of its Freedom and Prosperity Indexes); and (3) insufficient recognition among NATO’s thirty-two members of the gravity of the historic moment, reflected in their still-inadequate backing for Ukraine.

“Like a lightning strike illuminating a dim landscape,” wrote Jonathan Rauch in the Atlantic last week, “the twin invasions of Israel and Ukraine have brought a sudden recognition: What appeared to be, until now, disparate and disorganized challenges to the United States and its allies is actually something broader, more integrated, more aggressive, and more dangerous.”

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Inflection Points

Jul 8, 2024

The NATO Summit faces three simultaneous threats

By Frederick Kempe

Autocracies’ growing common cause, democracies’ continued weaknesses, and an insufficient recognition of the gravity of the historic moment confront the Alliance as it meets in Washington.

Central Asia China

JULY 7, 2024 | 10:13 PM ET

The US and Europe would be safer with Ukraine in NATO. Our war games showed why.

The NATO Summit will take place in Washington, DC, this week, marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of history’s most successful military alliance. A major topic of the summit will be Russia’s war in Ukraine and Ukraine’s future relationship to the Alliance. Some believe that it is risky to talk about Ukraine joining NATO any time soon, but, on the contrary, the free world would be much safer with Ukraine in the Alliance. Membership for Ukraine would be fundamental for lasting peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, benefiting both Ukraine and NATO.

At the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania, NATO members declared that Ukraine would join the Alliance at some unspecified point in the future. At last year’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, following Russia’s brutal 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the allies reaffirmed their 2008 commitment, adding the tautological qualifier that they would only “extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.”

This year, the Alliance is expected to offer Ukraine a “bridge to membership,” which will consist of a number of measures meant to strengthen Ukraine. These measures are expected to include NATO’s stepped-up role in coordinating military assistance and pledging long-term support, as well as individual Alliance members promising investments in Ukraine’s defense industrial base and further development of bilateral security agreements. However, these steps still fall well short of an invitation to join the Alliance.

Hesitancy to extend an invitation to join the Alliance stems mostly from a concern about what Ukrainian membership would mean for the security of existing NATO allies, including the United States. Would an invitation be provocative to Russia and set off a new cycle of escalation? What does it mean to extend a NATO Article 5 security guarantee to a country already in conflict, and would this be tantamount to a NATO declaration of war against Russia? Even if the current conflict dies down, creating space for Ukraine to join the Alliance, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to abandon his deep desire to reconquer Ukraine. Would not a future Russian attack on Ukraine set off a direct NATO-Russia war?

To help answer these questions, the Atlantic Council, in partnership with the Estonian foreign ministry, conducted a series of major tabletop exercises this spring that brought together dozens of leading experts, including current US and allied government officials, to examine future Russia-Ukraine conflict scenarios and their implications for Western security. Some exercises were set in the near future, after Ukraine had already joined NATO, while others gamed out the process of Ukraine joining NATO. The scenarios included variants in which Ukraine had succeeded in taking back all of its territory, and others in which parts of the country remained occupied by Russia.

The results of the exercises were unequivocal: Europe is more stable and secure with Ukraine in NATO. 

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New Atlanticist

Jul 7, 2024

The US and Europe would be safer with Ukraine in NATO. Our war games showed why.

By Matthew Kroenig and Kristjan Prikk

The Atlantic Council recently held a series of tabletop exercises to examine future Russia-Ukraine conflict scenarios and their implications for Western security. The results are clear.

Europe & Eurasia NATO


JULY 5, 2024 | 4:21 PM ET

NATO’s Irene Fellin: The inclusion of women, peace, and security in its plans may be the Alliance’s biggest achievement

We sat down with Irene Fellin, NATO’s special representative for women, peace, and security (WPS), to talk about why implementing the WPS agenda is important for the Alliance’s goals and future.

JULY 5, 2024 | 3:51 PM ET

Dispatch from Warsaw: Poland’s military and economic rise is coming just in time, as the West wobbles

WARSAW, Poland—After ten days in Warsaw, I’m struck by Poland’s rise, politically and militarily—even amid the dangers the country faces from Russia and Poles’ intensified post-debate doubts about the steadiness of the United States.

Poland’s strategic consensus—in support of Ukraine, opposed to Russia’s aggression, pro-NATO, and committed to its alliance with the United States—is solid, notwithstanding second-order (and avoidable) sniping between the governing coalition and the rightist opposition that controls the presidency. That’s more than can be said for France or, for that matter, the United States.

Poland’s dark assessment of President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been vindicated. But the Poles are not indulging in declinist pessimism or Ukraine fatigue. Poland’s best analysts, including those within Warsaw’s top-notch Center for Eastern Studies, are more optimistic about the course of the war in Ukraine than I have heard in a long time. They don’t foresee easy Ukrainian success, but their bottom line is that time is no longer necessarily on the Kremlin’s side—if the West keeps up the pressure. Relative success for Ukraine is possible, the analysts maintain, if—though only if—the West keeps backing Ukraine by delivering more weapons with fewer conditions, tightening economic pressure against Russia, and generally pushing back on Putin’s imperial ambitions. (I’d come to Poland for the Atlantic Council’s “Warsaw Week” events and a Warsaw University conference on how to deter Russia.)

In a good precedent for Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, Poland’s military spending started to rise sharply under the previous government, and that trend has continued under the current one. Newly purchased heavy equipment, tanks, and fighter aircraft are arriving to replace tanks and aircraft that Poland sent to Ukraine shortly after the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022.

But the West, the key institutions of which Poland joined at great effort, is no longer looking as sure as Poland had counted on. The June 27 debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump came as a shock to the Poles, who, like many, had not expected such a poor showing from Biden. The next day, many Poles were more openly contemplating the increased possibility of a second Trump term and weighing Poland’s options if the former president were to return to the White House. Trump’s more critical statements about NATO and friendly statements about Putin alarm many in Warsaw. But Polish politicians on both sides of the country’s political divide have good relations with many US Republicans both inside and outside Trump world, including Trump himself. They are now considering how to use these relationships to advance Poland’s customary “free world first” strategy.

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New Atlanticist

Jul 5, 2024

Dispatch from Warsaw: Poland’s military and economic rise is coming just in time, as the West wobbles

By Daniel Fried

Its rise at home and its strategic clarity about Russia have placed Poland in the first rank of European powers for the first time in centuries.

NATO Poland

JULY 5, 2024 | 1:19 PM ET

Why Washington must take the opportunity of the NATO Summit to reengage with Turkey

From July 9 to 11, the United States will host the NATO Summit in Washington, marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of what has been deemed by some as the world’s “most successful military alliance.” While the summit will mark an important milestone in NATO’s history, it will also provide an opportunity to discuss the future of the Alliance and for high-level officials to engage in discussions about boosting defense and deterrence in the most dangerous security environment since the Cold War.

Among those attending the summit will be Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey has been a major contributor to NATO’s operations around the world since it joined the Alliance in 1952 to defend itself and NATO’s southeastern flank against the Soviet threat. Today, as the Alliance’s second-largest military power and the gatekeeper of the straits connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Turkey plays a critical role in European stability and security. However, the complex nature of Ankara’s relationship with Washington and a lack of dialogue between the allies have often overshadowed the successes in the transatlantic partnership and limited opportunities for cooperation.

US Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake recently said that the NATO Summit provides an opportunity for a meeting between Erdoğan and US President Joe Biden, as “there is some desire on both sides” to do so. It remains unclear, however, whether this meeting will take place. Erdoğan’s previously scheduled visit to the White House in May was canceled due to scheduling problems, as cited by both sides, and Flake said it happened at a time when the crisis in Gaza cast a “difficult political backdrop.”

Despite that backdrop, Biden and Erdoğan shouldn’t let another opportunity to meet go to waste, as close cooperation would bring to bear several geopolitical, economic, and security benefits.

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Jul 5, 2024

Why Washington must take the opportunity of the NATO Summit to reengage with Turkey

By Yevgeniya Gaber

Strengthening relations between the US and Turkey will be critical for the future of the Alliance’s regional defense strategies.

Conflict Eastern Europe

JULY 5, 2024 | 11:54 AM ET

This NATO Summit will be of historic importance

At this new time of global turmoil, NATO stands as a beacon of hope for freedom, democracy, and human rights, explains Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe.

JULY 4, 2024 | 9:52 PM ET

Smart in sixty seconds: Why NATO matters

The Atlantic Council’s Ashley Semler breaks down new analysis from Richard D. Hooker Jr. explaining that NATO still matters because it has significant economic, political, and military benefits—and because it offers the United States a way to cope with China and Russia simultaneously.

Chart the Alliance’s future

Essays on the Alliance’s future

As the Alliance seeks to secure its future for the next seventy-five years, it faces revanchist old rivals, escalating strategic competition, and uncertainties over the future of the rules-based international order. This series features seven essays focused on concrete issues that NATO must address at the Washington summit and five essays that examine longer-term challenges the Alliance must confront to ensure transatlantic security. 

Further reading

Related Experts: Matthew Kroenig, Kimberly Talley, Léonie Allard, Abigail Rudolph, John E. Herbst, Jason Davidson, Gorana Grgić, Katherine Walla, Daniel Hojnacki, Rachel Rizzo, Philippe Dickinson, Sara Bjerg Moller, Cori Fleser, Zoltán Fehér, Giedrimas Jeglinskas, Julia Nesheiwat, Frederick Kempe, Luka Ignac, Ryan Arick, Andrew Bernard, Jeffrey Cimmino, Yevgeniya Gaber, and Daniel Fried

Image: A view of the U.S. flag alongside the NATO flag outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt