In their first working session at the Vilnius Summit on Tuesday (11 July 2023), Allies took decisions to bring Ukraine closer to NATO, and reinforce the Alliance’s collective deterrence and defence.
Allies agreed to a package of three elements bringing Ukraine closer to NATO. This includes a new multi-year assistance programme to facilitate the transition of the Ukrainian armed forces from Soviet-era to NATO standards and help rebuild Ukraine’s security and defence sector, covering critical needs like fuel, demining equipment, and medical supplies.
Allies also agreed to establish the new NATO-Ukraine Council, which will hold its inaugural meeting in Vilnius on Wednesday with the participation of President Zelenskyy. Allies also reaffirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, and agreed to remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan. “This is a strong package for Ukraine, and a clear path towards its membership in NATO,” said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Allies adopted “the most comprehensive defence plans since the end of the Cold War,” Mr Stoltenberg said. Designed to counter the Alliance’s two main threats – Russia and terrorism – the new regional plans provide for 300,000 troops at high readiness, including substantial air and naval combat power. Allies also approved a new Defence Production Action Plan to accelerate joint procurement, boost production capacity and enhance Allies’ interoperability.
To meet their defence needs, Allies made an enduring commitment to invest a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defence. European Allies and Canada recorded an 8.3% real terms increase in their defence budgets in 2023, the largest increase in decades. Eleven Allies meet or exceed the benchmark this year, and this number is expected to grow substantially in 2024.
Allies also discussed the challenges that a “coercive” China poses to Euro-Atlantic security and values. “China is not our adversary, and we should continue to engage,” the Secretary General said, while stressing that “Beijing’s increasing assertiveness affects our security” and challenges the rules-based international order. On Wednesday, Allies will meet the leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as well as the European Union.