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NATO summit must step up support for Ukraine, bolster defence capabilities

26 May 2024

SOFIA – NATO must seize the opportunity of its 75th-anniversary summit to increase long-term support for Ukraine as well as bolstering the Alliance’s own capabilities to protect against threats from Russia and other global security challenges, lawmakers from across the 32-nation Alliance said Sunday. 

“The current geopolitical context is arguably the most challenging since the Second World War ... we have entered an era of global insecurity,” Portuguese member Marcos Perestrello told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Sofia.  

“The stakes are very high, and the time for half-measures is over,” Perestrello added. “By ambitiously stepping up NATO’s defence and deterrence and by providing all the necessary support to Ukraine we would, in fact, reduce the likelihood of a war involving NATO Allies.” 

In a report drafted for the Assembly’s Political Committee, Slovak legislator Tomas Valasek said the anniversary summit scheduled for July 9-11 in Washington must reaffirm support for Kyiv “for as long as it takes for Ukraine to win, signalling to Putin that his hopes to wait out the West are futile.” 

Besides backing Ukraine, NATO needs to strengthen its own defences, particularly through greater efforts by European Allies to meet defence spending targets and to translate those increases into “actual military capability.” Allies must increase force numbers, rectify key equipment shortages and ramp up defence production. “Europe must step up,” Valasek insisted. 

Russia’s hybrid threat to Western democracy through disinformation, cyberattacks, sabotage and other destabilisation efforts was highlighted by investigative journalist Christo Grozev. “From a Russian perspective, they declared war on the West,” he told lawmakers via video-link. “Unless we, as the collective West, accept the fact that we are in a declared information war, there is no way we can fight it back effectively.” 

Grozev said NATO nations urgently need to upgrade their response, including through wider sanctions against Russian disinformation agents, stiffer controls on social media destabilisation campaigns and increased investment in coordinated counterintelligence. 

Beyond the threat from Russia, the Washington Summit should also optimise NATO’s preparedness to meet other challenges in the “precarious global security situation” including a revisionist China, international terrorism, the spread of disruptive technologies and climate change, Valasek’s draft report noted. The summit should also move ahead on the creation of a Centre for Democratic Resilience at NATO headquarters. 

The report also recommended NATO leaders affirm that Ukraine’s path towards joining of the Alliance is “irreversible” and will go ahead once Kyiv meets the membership criteria. Yehor Cherniev, head of Ukraine’s delegation to the Assembly, reported progress towards compliance with the conditions, including strengthening democratic oversight of the armed forces, harmonising legislation with NATO treaties and reforming defence procurement. 

“We understand that our future depends on our efforts because we have to think not only about today, not only about the battlefield, but about our future in those institutions like NATO and the EU,” Cherniev said.  

Cherniev also briefed the Political Committee on latest developments on the frontlines, including Russia’s bombing of a shopping centre in Kharkiv on Saturday that killed at least 12 civilians. He noted that with more Western air defence equipment and a lifting of restrictions on the use of Western-supplied weapons on Russian territory, such tragedies could be avoided.  

“The strike was carried out by an aircraft from Russian airspace, we were unable to shoot it down due to the lack of permission to use Western weapons on Russian territory,” Cherniev said. Such restrictions also hampered Ukraine’s ability to defend against the Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region.  

Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine has increased risks for other European countries outside NATO, including Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, noted Romanian lawmaker Ana-Maria Catauta. NATO should move to increase its engagement with all three countries to help them tackle threats to democratic institutions, including Russian-backed intimidation. 

“Reassuring these partners not only advances their aspirations but also strengthens the broader Euro-Atlantic community’s resilience against authoritarian threats,” Catauta wrote in a draft report for the Political Committee.

There was substantial debate in the Committee on Georgia’s legislation on the so-called “transparency of foreign influence.” Earlier Sunday, the Assembly issued a statement calling the bill “a step backwards for Georgia’s democracy” which “runs counter to its NATO as well as EU aspirations and values.” 

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