NATO Summit Will Spotlight Ukraine And Sweden

As Joe Biden prepares for next week’s crucial NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, two critical issues weigh heavily on the agenda – Ukraine’s path to NATO membership and Sweden’s contested accession. The White House announced on Friday that Biden, alongside fellow NATO leaders, will discuss the necessary steps Ukraine must complete to join the alliance.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, acknowledged that Ukraine would not receive a decisive vote at the upcoming summit. However, he encouraged Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to participate in the discussions.

The discussions revolve around Ukraine’s completion of the Membership Action Plan (MAP). This comprehensive process requires candidate countries to demonstrate their political, economic, and military readiness to contribute meaningfully to NATO operations. Undergoing additional reforms is critical for Ukraine to navigate this pathway.

While Ukraine seeks a clear indication of its membership prospects in Vilnius, the United States has pledged to provide cluster munitions for use in its counteroffensive against Russia. Furthermore, Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, declared the country’s intent to transition from conscription to a professional army post-conflict, aligning more closely with NATO standards.

Another issue atop Biden’s agenda is the anticipated NATO membership of Sweden. Turkey, a current NATO member, has blocked Sweden’s membership, citing Stockholm’s alleged harboring of militant groups, including supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party. Despite Turkey’s objections, Sullivan believes Sweden will eventually become a NATO member, potentially not until after the summit.

Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan, steadfastly maintains his stance, stating, “We are ready to embrace anyone loyal to the alliance’s core values,” reminding that Turkey will not hesitate to react against anyone protecting terrorists or failing in their fight against terrorism.

As the summit approaches, NATO leaders prepare to enhance Ukraine’s armed forces and reaffirm its potential future membership. The leaders aim to solidify a multi-year program ensuring complete interoperability between the Ukrainian armed forces and NATO.

Despite Ukraine’s plea for more weaponry and dwindling military stocks among its partners, NATO encourages the 31 allies to bolster their military budgets. The allies have pledged to reach a minimum of 2% GDP on defense, with no set timeline for achieving this goal.
The summit will undeniably showcase Erdogan’s dominance as he continues to object to Sweden’s accession. Nevertheless, NATO leaders, including Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, will attempt to break this deadlock during discussions in Vilnius.

As Biden embarks on this pivotal journey, the global spotlight sharpens on Ukraine’s path and Sweden’s contested accession to NATO. These decisions will undoubtedly define geopolitical relations for the foreseeable future.