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NATO Vilnius Summit: Ukraine Will Join the Fold

June 17, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Yesterday’s NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels set down the final stones to the alliance’s summit in Vilnius on July 11-12. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a press conference following the meeting, addressed the central issue of Ukraine’s emerging relationship to NATO. “We also discussed the way forward for Ukraine,” which consists of three elements, Stoltenberg reported. “One is to move Ukraine closer to NATO in practical terms,” he went on, describing what’s called a Comprehensive Assistance Package, to help Ukraine move from Soviet-era standards, doctrines, equipment, to NATO standards, doctrine and equipment, “and to be fully interoperable with NATO.”

Second, there’s the political element of finalizing the formation of the NATO-Ukraine Council, which will make the Kiev regime co-equal to the alliance’s other 31 members. “Our ambition is to have the first meeting of the new Council in Vilnius, with [Ukrainian] President Zelenskyy,” Stoltenberg remarked.

Then there’s the matter of Ukraine’s formal membership in NATO. “We’re not going to discuss an invitation at the Vilnius Summit, but how we can move Ukraine closer to NATO,” he said. “And I’m confident that we will find a good solution and consensus at the Vilnius Summit on how to be able to move Ukraine closer to NATO.” The Washington Post had reported the day before, that, when he was in Washington, Stoltenberg had found support at the White House for a plan he proposed to bring Ukraine closer to NATO without going through a Membership Action Plan, in effect making Ukraine a NATO member de facto, if not de jure.

Stoltenberg also reviewed other features of the upcoming Vilnius summit. “For the first time since the Cold War, we are fully connecting the planning for our collective defense with the planning for our forces, capabilities, and command and control as well as an enhanced exercise program for our troops,” he said. “As a result, NATO will have over 300,000 troops on high readiness, backed by substantial air and maritime capabilities, to defend every inch of Allied territory against any threat.”

“We also agreed on a new rotational model for air and missile defense,” he continued. “It will ensure that resources are used in the most effective way and that we can transition smoothly from air policing to air defense.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in a separate press conference, also focused on what to expect from the Vilnius summit.

“In Vilnius, NATO will have the opportunity to expand its practical, nonlethal (sic) support for Ukraine’s current fight, and that will also be a chance to lay the foundations for modernizing and reforming Ukraine’s defense institutions and making the transition to NATO-standard equipment,”

he said. He also promised that the leaders will agree to the new defense spending pledge, that 2% of GDP will be a floor, not a ceiling.

“Now all of this work is part of the fundamental shift in collective defense and deterrence that NATO’s leaders agreed on at the Madrid Summit last year,” Austin droned on. “Our updated defense plans will place more forces at higher levels of readiness, and that will deter aggression and allow us to respond more quickly to any challenge to our collective security.” This also includes “adapting” NATO’s deterrence posture “to our shifting threat environment” and deepening the alliance’s relationships with its “partners” in the Indo-Pacific—NATO’s new front.

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