Stoltenberg hopes for NATO agreement on defense spending, eastern flank at Vilnius summit

  • 2023-02-27
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hopes that NATO’s summit in Vilnius in July will update regional security plans and agree on substantial strengthening of Baltic countries’ defense.

The summit would also seek agreement on a defense spending “floor” of 2 percent of GDP for member states, he said in an interview to the Lithuanian national broadcaster LRT's program Savaite (Week) aired on Sunday.

“Next to greater capabilities, the most important things that we are preparing now and will agree on in Vilnius are new defense plans, the force model. We will also increase defense spending in order to ensure the readiness of our forces so that, if necessary, existing capabilities can be quickly strengthened,” Stoltenberg noted.

“No decisions have been made yet, but I think 2 percent from the gross domestic product (GDP), the limit should not be the ceiling, but the floor, the minimum expenditure on defense,” he added.

NATO secretary general noted that the Alliance had already significantly strengthened its presence on the eastern flank yet said that “there is constant consideration of what else could be done in this regard”.

“The most important thing is to have a very high readiness force of significant size that can be redeployed quickly if necessary,” he stated.

Stoltenberg also expressed hope that the summit in Vilnius would agree on “new steps and measures” to support Ukraine.

He praised Lithuania as one of the allies of the countries giving the most support to Ukraine.

“You have supported Ukraine for many years, but especially after the invasion. Taking into account the gross domestic product, Lithuania is among the allies of the countries that give the most support to Ukraine.”

“We are doing that [supporting Ukraine] in order to send a message to [Russian president Vladimir] Putin: he will not win on the battlefield, he has to understand that, sit down for talks and recognize Ukraine as a sovereign, independent state and leave it. President Putin started the war and President Putin has to end the war by pulling out his troops,” NATO secretary general stressed.

According to him, NATO’s goal was to “make sure to provide Ukraine with capabilities and the necessary force to win and push out Russian invaders”.

“We see Russia constantly preparing for an even bigger war, new offensives: it is mobilizing more troops, acquiring more weapons, increasing their production, sending more ammunition and more and more weapons. We also see it building contacts with other authoritarian regimes, such as Iran, North Korea,” Stoltenberg said.

Back in 2014, NATO allies pledged to aim to move towards spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense within a decade.

However, Stoltenberg told the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels last week that he expected this threshold to become “the floor, or the minimum”. Lithuania and some other NATO allies want this objective to be endorsed at the summit of the Alliance in Vilnius in July.

Lithuania will host NATO's summit for the first time on July 11-12. The gathering is expected to bring together around 40 delegations from NATO member and partner countries, with around 5,000 people estimated to attend the event and accompany the delegations.

The summit is also expected to be attended by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.