Spending issues and response to hybrid threats top NATO summit agenda

Stoltenberg: Once the agreement is finalised and implemented, we will be able to invite the FYROM to become NATO’s 30th member

Photo: NATO Jens Stoltenberg

Defence spending and burden-sharing will be one of the items on the agenda tomorrow at the NATO Summit that will take place in Brussels on 11 and 12 July. During the press conference ahead of the sitting, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General announced the publication of the new 2018 defence spending estimates for each of the 29 member countries.

The pact chief made clear that compared to 2014, all members have stopped the cuts and are increasing spending. Last year saw the biggest increase in a generation, he said specifying that 2018 will be the fourth consecutive year of real increases. Stoltenberg told reporters that it is expected this year “8 allies to spend on defence at least 2% of GDP”, compared to just 3 in 2014. Allies are also investing billions in new major equipment and stepping up their contributions to missions and operations, he added.

Next two days NATO leaders will put on the table decisions to step up alliance’s role in the fight against terrorism. As Stoltenberg mentioned a new training mission in Iraq, with hundreds of NATO trainers will be launched to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces. According to Stoltenberg it will be a non-combat mission, but it will help Iraq prevent the re-emergence of ISIS and other terrorist groups. Further support for key partners in the Middle East and North Africa will be considered as well.

Concerning NATO’s response to hybrid threats Stoltenberg underscored that the strengthened defences will extend into the cyber domain “with a new Cyber Operations Centre as part of the new NATO Command Structure and the ability to draw on Allies’ national cyber capabilities in NATO missions and operations.”

It is anticipated at the summit that leaders will agree to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020.  As the NATO chief stressed “Our presence in Afghanistan is vital to ensuring the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.”

Labelling the agreement on the name issue as “historic” Stoltenberg said he expects that “we will agree to invite Skopje to start accession talks.” Once the agreement is finalised and implemented, we will be able to invite the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member under its new name: the Republic of North Macedonia, he urged.

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