“Historic” NATO summit concludes

Sweden, Ukraine membership take center stage

NATO

Photo: Foto: Javad Parsa / NTB
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) attended the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, where Ukrainian membership was at the top of the agenda.

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Heads of state gathered for the NATO summit in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on July 11 and 12. “The most important one in our time,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor Party).

Støre, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor Party) and Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram (Center Party) traveled to Vilnius and met the press before the two-day summit kicked off. There they announced that Norway will increase aid to Ukraine by NOK 2.5 billion this year.

“Ukraine has an urgent need for more military support and material now. Norway is therefore expanding military support to Ukraine by NOK 2.5 billion to NOK 10 billion for 2023,” said the prime minister.

Norway will also increase support for NATO’s support fund for Ukraine. NOK 300 million will be given this year and a total of NOK 1.5 billion over five years.

“It is a clear signal of long-term support for Ukraine’s reform work and will link Ukraine more closely to the alliance,” he said.

“A historic summit”

The summit commenced the day after an announcement on Twitter that Turkey agrees to admit Sweden into NATO.

The Norwegian prime minister commented on the matter shortly after the announcement.

“It is important, positive, and good news for Sweden, Norway, the Nordic countries and for NATO that Swedish membership in the alliance has been resolved. A united Nordic region in NATO will make the alliance stronger and the Nordics safer,” Støre wrote.

The prime minister referred to the agreement as historic news for Sweden, Norway, the Nordic countries and the whole of NATO.

“Concrete steps against terrorism”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he expects Sweden to take concrete steps against terrorism in return for Turkey’s ratification of the NATO application.

At a press conference after the NATO summit, he said that the Turkish National Assembly will closely monitor developments before ratifying the application.

He made it clear that he expects that Sweden “does not accept hate crimes” that affect Muslims, such as Koran burning, and that “such heinous attacks on the Koran are not approved in Sweden.”

He also pointed out that, according to the agreement, Sweden will support an update of the customs agreement with the EU and visa-free entry for Turks to the EU.

But he points out that Turkey cannot ratify the application before the National Assembly meets again after the holidays in October, where there is a lot of other legislation to be discussed.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström responded that Sweden will fulfill all the terms of the agreement with Turkey but not until their NATO application is ratified.

“We agree that Sweden should present a ‘roadmap.’ We will of course do that. We will fulfill every point of the agreement. But we will naturally do this after we have been ratified,” he said to Dagens Nyheter.

NATO-Ukraine Council 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 12, where Ukraine’s desire for NATO membership was at the top of the agenda.

The best security guarantee Ukraine can get is membership in NATO, said Zelenskyy. In the meantime, he asked for assurances from allies.

“I am confident that after the war, Ukraine will be in NATO. We will do everything we can to achieve that,” Zelenskyy said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The allies decided on July 11 that Ukraine will be invited into the alliance when the member states agree on it, and when the conditions for this have been met. No concrete promises were made as to when this might happen. A number of countries have said that Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO until the war is over, which Zelenskyy also acknowledged.

He emphasized on July 12 that he understands that Ukraine cannot join NATO as long as the country is at war.

Later that day, the G7 countries made promises of permanent arms shipments to Ukraine as part of several security guarantees to the country.

Ukraine will also receive modern equipment for its air and naval defense forces to drive out the Russian invasion forces, said a statement from the G7 countries.

Zelenskyy seemed satisfied with the statement.

“The Ukrainian delegation is going home with an important security victory for Ukraine, for our country, for our children,” he said when the contents of the aid package became known.

Støre confirmed to NTB that Norway supports the declaration from the G7 countries.

“Norway will support this in two ways. We will give Norway’s support to this declaration, and we will also do so with the other Nordic countries in a joint statement,” he said.

According to Stoltenberg, Ukraine is closer to the defense alliance than ever before.

“I look forward to the day we meet as allies,” he said to the Ukrainian president.

The NATO countries agreed on July 11 that Ukraine will release the so-called MAP process (Membership Action Plan). That means faster processing of Ukraine’s NATO application when the time comes.

It has also been decided that a separate NATO-Ukraine Council will be established. The first meeting was held on July 12.

“This is a forum where NATO and Ukraine meet on an equal footing, hold crisis talks and make decisions together,” said the secretary general.

Stoltenberg was challenged on whether NATO will send fighter jets to Ukraine.

He pointed out that at the summit it was decided that a coalition consisting of 10 countries, including Norway, will start training Ukrainian F-16 pilots after the summer. Only after this will a decision be made on deliveries of fighter aircraft, he said.

“NATO has never been stronger”

U.S. President Joe Biden went straight from the NATO summit in Vilnius to the Finnish capital Helsinki for talks with the Nordic leaders on July 13.

He started the day with a bilateral meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, before the other Nordic leaders arrived.

“I don’t think NATO has ever been stronger,” Biden said to the Finnish president.

He called Finland’s entry into the alliance “the fastest in modern history.” The country became a NATO member in April this year.

“It took me about three seconds to say yes to the application,” said Biden.

Støre pointed out that the United States will now negotiate bilateral defense agreements with Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, as they have with Norway.

“Eventually we will get a fairly strong uniform framework between the United States and the Nordics,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway