NATO Defence Ministers concluded two days of meetings in Brussels on Friday (16 June 2023), in order to prepare for the Vilnius Summit in July.
Mr Stoltenberg said that “Ukrainian forces have stepped up operations along the front line, and are making progress – but they face tough terrain, dug-in Russian troops, and fierce fighting”.
In this context, he underlined that increasing support for Ukraine remains crucial. He welcomed new announcements from Allies, including the initiative led by the Netherlands and Denmark to start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and, together with the United Kingdom and the United States, to deliver short and medium-range air defence missiles. He also welcomed that Allies have so far made contributions and commitments amounting to 500 million euros to NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package, adding that NATO is working on a multi-year package with substantial funding for the Summit, and is also working to establish a new NATO-Ukraine Council, where Ukraine and Allies will consult and decide on security issues on an equal basis.
“Our ambition is to have the first meeting of the new Council in Vilnius, with President Zelenskyy,” he said.
At the Vilnius Summit, Allies will also take steps to further strengthen deterrence and defence, including with new regional plans. Mr Stoltenberg highlighted that for the first time since the Cold War, Allies are “fully connecting the planning for our collective defence with the planning for our forces, capabilities, and command and control” and that 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”.
Ministers also agreed a new rotational model for air and missile defence; agreed substantially increase capability targets for battle-decisive ammunition; and reviewed the NATO Defence Production Action Plan, with measures to aggregate demand, boost capacity, and increase interoperability and interchangeability. Mr Stoltenberg said that he expects NATO Allies to make a more ambitious commitment to defence investment in Vilnius, with 2% of GDP for defence spending as a floor, not a ceiling.
NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group also met to discuss the nuclear aspects of the current security environment and the ongoing adaptation of NATO’s nuclear deterrence.