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NATO chief vows to send Ukraine 'positive' message at Vilnius summit

Security officers patrols at the venue of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, July 10, 2023.
Security officers patrols at the venue of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, July 10, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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The US-led alliance will try to show at a summit in Vilnius its members are united in their commitment to supporting Ukraine.

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NATO leaders meeting in Vilnius will send a good message to Ukraine over its bid to join the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

"We are going to send a clear message, a positive message on the way forward," said the NATO Secretary General. "The text of the communiqué will be made public in the coming hours." 

The NATO summit kicked off in Lithuania's capital on Tuesday, after Turkey withdrew its objections to Sweden joining the alliance - a major boost that will help to alleviate tensions in Vilnius. 

Hungary later signalled it would also lift its veto.  

The moves bode well for one of NATO's most pivotal summits, with Western leaders eager to demonstrate unity in the face of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Even if different positions are voiced, it is still clear that Ukraine deserves to be in the Alliance. Not now - there is a war, but we need a clear signal. And we need this signal right now.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who may attend the summit, is still hopeful that the war-torn country can secure NATO membership: "We are working extremely hard these days. Even more actively than ever." 

"And although this work is almost 100% behind the scenes, it is no less important than any public work," he said during his nightly video address on Monday. 

However, the US and Germany have argued that Ukraine is not ready to join the group despite a show of support from the Baltic States including Lithuania.

US President Joe Biden said members of NATO need to “meet all the qualifications, from democratisation to a whole range of other issues," a nod toward longstanding concerns about governance and corruption in Kyiv.

Increased defence spending

One indication of success will be measured in a collective effort to increase funding for the alliance.

All members are supposed to contribute 2% of their GDP to defence spending. At the moment, only seven members do so.

What's next for Sweden?

As part of the deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would ask Turkey's parliament to approve Sweden joining NATO. 

Hungary is expected to take a similar step, with the country's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying the Hungarian "government supports Stockholm's accession" on Tuesday.

The outcome is a victory for President Biden as well, who has touted NATO's expansion as an example of how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has backfired. 

Finland has already become the 31st member of the alliance, and Sweden is on track to become the 32nd. Though closely aligned with NATO, both had previously shied away from membership. 

It's unclear how some of Erdogan's other demands will be resolved. He has been seeking advanced American fighter jets and a path toward membership in the European Union. 

The White House has expressed support for both but publicly insisted that the issues were not related to Sweden's membership in NATO.

What else is on NATO's agenda?

Besides supporting Ukraine, a strategy for Russia will be up for discussion. 

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NATO allies have reportedly reached an agreement on defence plans detailing how the alliance would respond to a Russian attack.

In a major swerve away from normal NATO policy, the alliance said it needed a new approach to deal with Moscow which is now viewed as an existential threat.

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