NATO leaders meet for summit in Vilnius to discuss defence, deterrence, support for Ukraine
NATO leaders, including Poland’s president, top diplomat and defence minister, have gathered for a two-day summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, with discussions set to be dominated by the issue of bringing Ukraine closer to the alliance, according to officials.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meets reporters ahead of the start of the alliance’s annual summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday, July 11, 2023.PAP/Valdemar Doveiko
Polish President Andrzej Duda, Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak arrived at the summit’s venue, the Litexpo centre early on Tuesday afternoon, as one of the 48 national delegations, Polish state news agency PAP reported.
The Vilnius meeting is set to bring together 40 leaders from NATO members and partner countries, including US President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to news outlets.
Bringing Ukraine closer to NATO
The talks were set to focus on ways to bring Ukraine closer to NATO, amid continuing Russian aggression, the PAP news agency reported.
Ahead of the summit, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he expected Allied leaders to agree a package for Ukraine consisting of three elements: “a multi-year programme of assistance to ensure interoperability;” upgraded political ties, including “a new NATO-Ukraine Council;” and “a reaffirmation that Ukraine will become a member of NATO, with unity on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal.”
On Tuesday morning, Stoltenberg told reporters that NATO members would „send a very strong and positive message from NATO to Ukraine” during the Vilnius summit, British broadcaster the BBC reported.
He added that Ukraine had “come a long way” since NATO declared in 2008 that Kyiv “will” join the transatlantic alliance at some point.
The NATO chief stated: „Ukraine is much closer to Nato, so I think the time has come to reflect that in NATO decisions,” as quoted by the BBC.
Accession of Sweden
NATO leaders are also expected to discuss Sweden’s accession to the pact, after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday accepted Stockholm’s membership bid, the Politico news service reported.
Turkey had been one of the last two NATO members alongside Hungary to oppose Sweden’s entry to the alliance, the BBC reported.
Poland to press for a stronger eastern flank, pathway to NATO membership for Ukraine
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, NATO’s heads of state and government, including Polish President Andrzej Duda, were set to hold a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, with Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, the PAP news agency reported.
Later in the day, Poland’s Duda was set to meet for talks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, before attending, with First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, a working dinner hosted by Lithuania’s first couple, according to officials.
On Wednesday, the Polish president is due to attend a “Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government, with Sweden, Indo-Pacific Partners, and the European Union,” officials said.
Duda is then scheduled to hold talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, the PAP news agency reported.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Polish president will also take part in a “Meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at the level of Heads of State and Government,” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, before meeting reporters, according to officials.
Before departing for Vilnius on Monday night, Duda told reporters that the summit would explore “all the issues that matter for Polish security,” including “the need to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank” amid the threat from Russia.
Duda also stressed that the Vilnius summit would discuss Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, and emphasised that Poland wanted Ukraine “to receive as many security assurances as possible, and above all to receive… a clear pathway to membership of NATO.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.
Tuesday is day 503 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.