The main priorities of the next NATO Summit

Following the 2016 Warsaw summit, the next NATO Summit will be held on 11 and 12 July 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. It will focus in particular on reinforcing the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe as part of its deterrence mission.

NATO members should once again reiterate that the Alliance is strong, united, prepared and ready to deal with any threats against its territory at any time and by any means.

Indeed, on May 28th, during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underlined NATO’s unity and adaptation in an uncertain security environment.

We are 29 democracies with sometimes different opinions. That is the nature of democracy. But NATO stands united around our core task: we protect and defend each other,” he said.

The five main topics for the July 2018 summit are :

Deterrence and defence

Leaders will discuss a readiness initiative to ensure the alliance is prepared to respond quickly and efficiently to Russian aggression, Stoltenberg said.

NATO member states have deployed around 4,000 troops to the Baltic states and Poland to counter the threat to the alliance’s eastern flank, particularly since the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Building on the alliance’s 2016 decision to deploy battle groups on its eastern flank facing Russia, Stoltenberg said he expected leaders at the July summit to « make decisions on reinforcement, readiness and military mobility » of forces.

Our deterrence and defence is not only dependent on the forces we have deployed, but it also very much depends on our ability to move forces quickly if needed,” he said.

He added that NATO must accept that Russia is their neighbor and that the bear is not going away. The alliance has “to combine that strong and firm message with an openness for dialogue, partially because we need to continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia,” Stoltenberg said.

Projecting stability

To fight terrorism, Stoltenberg asked leaders to discuss a train, advise and assist mission for Iraq to combat the Islamic State group.

One of the lessons we have learned from Afghanistan, Iraq but also Libya, is that in the long run it is better to train local forces and enable them to stabilize their own countries instead of NATO deploying large number of combat troops in large operations,” he said.

NATO-EU cooperation

The Brussels Summit will also be an opportunity to enhance further the relationship between NATO and the European Union. Since the Warsaw Summit, the EU has significantly increased its profile and activities in the defence field, including by the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

PESCO has “to make sure that efforts of the EU do not compete or duplicate, but that they complement NATO efforts,” Stoltenberg said.

Moreoever, cyber is one of the fields in which the importance of close NATO-EU cooperation will be paramount.


NATO’s upcoming summit will address the alliance’s continuous modernization and adaptation of NATO’s command structure.

Stoltenberg said he expects leaders to agree on establishing two new commands. The first is an Atlantic command for the trans-Atlantic alliance to be hosted in Norfolk, Virginia. A second new command to be established will be the Joint Support and Enabling Command to improve the movement of troops and equipment within Europe, hosted by Germany in Ulm.

Defence spending

Perhaps one of the alliance’s most sensitive subjects is burden sharing. For Stoltenberg, this is not only determined by spending, but also by levels of contribution to NATO missions and operations.

The USA has high expectations that all Allies will remain committed to the agreed target of 2 percent of GDP.

There is a political expectation that allies should spend 2 percent on defence. That is the political reality,” Stoltenberg said. “But we didn’t promise to do this within a year. We promised to do this within a decade” he added.

According to 2017 estimates, only four members fulfilled the 2% requirement, while four countries spent less than 1%. In 2018, eight NATO nations are expected to meet the 2% target. However, it is highly unlikely that all Allies will increase their military expenditure to meet the agreed objective by 2024 as only 15 countries are expected to get to that level.

© Photo credit : Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

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