NATO Ministers to Discuss Ukraine, Spending, Deterrence at Brussels Meeting

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • DOD News

Russia's war in Ukraine, NATO spending, progress in meeting the goals of the Vilnius Summit and preparations for the Washington Summit this summer are on the agenda for the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference in Brussels today.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is not attending the meeting due to health reasons. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith will represent the secretary at the ministerial. Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, will assist her.

At the Vilnius Summit, allies pledged to strengthen defense and deterrence, and this requires investment. Overall, European allies are meeting the alliance investment pledge of 2% of gross domestic product for defense, Stoltenberg said.  

The secretary general announced the latest figures. "Since the Investment Pledge was made in 2014, European allies and Canada have added more than 600 billion U.S. dollars for defense," he said. 

Just last year, the European allies and Canada increased their investments by 11%. "This year, I expect 18 allies to spend 2% of their GDP on defense," he said. In 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine, only three NATO allies were at the 2% level. 

"In 2024, NATO allies in Europe will invest a combined total of $380 billion in defense," Stoltenberg said. "For the first time, this amounts to 2% of their combined GDP."

While this is progress, more is needed, he said. He noted that the 2% goal is now not a goal, but the minimum countries should invest.

"At the ministerial, we will also discuss further ramping up production of ammunition," the secretary general said. "In the past few months, NATO has agreed contracts worth $10 billion. And just this week, Germany launched construction for a new ammunition factory in lower Saxony." 

The ministers will also review new alliance defense plans that are being tested in Exercise Steadfast Defender, the largest NATO exercise since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

The exercise includes all 31 allies and Sweden.  

"We can never take peace for granted, but there is no imminent military threat against any NATO ally," Stoltenberg said. "NATO will continue to ensure that there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow about our readiness and resolve to protect all allies." 

The defense ministers will also participate in a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, that will follow the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group. "Both of these meetings will focus on our support," the secretary general said. "We continue to help Ukraine move closer to NATO standards on everything from procurement to logistics, and allies continue to make major deliveries of weapons, equipment and ammunition. This support makes a real difference.

"With our help, the brave Ukrainians have retaken half of the territory that Russia seized, opened a corridor in the Black Sea and are inflicting heavy losses on Russian forces."

Stoltenberg welcomed the European Union's pledge of aid to Ukraine and called on the U.S. Congress to follow suit. "This is not charity," he said. "It is an investment in our own security."

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