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NATO stresses unity as foreign ministers wrap up summit

Published April 4, 2024last updated April 5, 2024

The US and Europe still need each other, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told DW as the alliance marks its 75-year anniversary. Meanwhile, Ukraine appealed to members of the alliance for more air defense systems.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba
Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba (l) and other Kyiv representatives urged NATO allies for more defensive weaponsImage: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

NATO foreign ministers ended their two-day meeting in Brussels on Thursday as the alliance marks its 75th anniversary.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said discussions were underway to secure the long-term viability of the military alliance.

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock described NATO as a "central anchor of security" in Europe.

Ukraine was also on the agenda, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterating his country's "rock-solid" support for Kyiv. He also expressed support for a pathway for Ukraine to eventually join the bloc.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia and NATO were now in "direct confrontation" amid a deteriorating security situation.

Here are some of the main developments taking place during the NATO foreign ministers' meeting on Thursday, April 4.

Skip next section US is stronger with NATO, Stoltenberg tells DW
April 4, 2024

US is stronger with NATO, Stoltenberg tells DW

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has rejected suggestions that some lawmakers in the United States are turning their backs to the military alliance.

"The US is stronger with NATO than without NATO. There's a strong bipartisan support for NATO in in the United States," Stoltenberg said in an interview with DW's Alexandra von Nahmen in Brussels.

"And we have to remember that the criticism from former President Donald Trump and also from others in the United States has not been mainly against NATO. It has been against NATO allies not paying enough for NATO."

DW-Interview mit NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg sat down with DW's Brussels bureau chief Alexandra von NahmenImage: DW

Trump faced  a fresh wave of condemnation from world leaders in February when he said he would encourage Russia "to do whatever the hell they want" to NATO members that don't meet their financial obligations.

Although many NATO members have increased their military expenditure in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, less than half of them have met or exceeded the bloc's agreement for members to allocate 2% of their gross domestic product for defense.

"The good news is that NATO allies, including Germany and many others, are now really stepping up and investing more in defense," Stoltenberg told DW.

The NATO chief said ministers from member states have been discussing a plan to shift to longer-term funding commitments, and that he expected to have an announcement at the NATO summit in July.

Skip next section Germany says cyber force will be fourth branch of military
April 4, 2024

Germany says cyber force will be fourth branch of military

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has announced a restructuring of the military, including a new central command and a dedicated branch for cyberspace. 

The Cyber and Information Space (CIR) deals with electronic warfare and cyberoperations, reconnaissance, and electronic infrastructure protection.

The revamp would advance a Bundeswehr overhaul launched in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"No one should have the idea of attacking us as a NATO territory. We have to convey this credibly and truthfully," Pistorius told a press conference in Berlin.

The minister said the Bundeswehr will need an additional €6.5 billion ($7.06 billion) in the 2025 budget. 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Cabinet is seeking the funds to meet a long-neglected 2% NATO spending target in the coming years.

Skip next section Blinken wants NATO to build a 'bridge' for Ukraine to join
April 4, 2024

Blinken wants NATO to build a 'bridge' for Ukraine to join

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Ukraine will eventually join NATO with support for the country remaining "rock solid" among the alliance's member states.

"Ukraine will become a member of NATO. Our purpose at the summit is to help build a bridge to that membership," Washington's top diplomat told reporters in Brussels.

Skip next section Russia and NATO now in 'direct confrontation': Kremlin
April 4, 2024

Russia and NATO now in 'direct confrontation': Kremlin

The Kremlin has accused NATO of being a destabilizing influence in remarks made as the alliance marks its 75th anniversary.

"NATO continues to demonstrate its essence, since NATO was conceived as an alliance that was formed, created and led by the US as an instrument of confrontation, especially on the European continent. And in this regard, it continues to fulfill its role," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"In fact, relations have now slipped to the level of direct confrontation," with NATO "already involved in the conflict surrounding Ukraine [and continuing] to move towards our borders and expand its military infrastructure towards our borders," he said.

Peskov went on to say that the alliance was "in no way contributing to the security, predictablility and stability of the security situation on the continent."

On the contrary, he said, it is a "destabilizing factor."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified his invasion of Ukraine, among other things, by saying it was a response to NATO's successive waves of eastern enlargement.

The West stresses that NATO is a defensive alliance and that many countries from the former communist "Eastern Bloc" had joined it by democratic choice.  

Putin said in February that a direct conflict between Russia and NATO would mean that World War Three was not far off.

Skip next section Ukraine support plan faces many hurdles: Lithuania's Landsbergis tells DW
April 4, 2024

Ukraine support plan faces many hurdles: Lithuania's Landsbergis tells DW

A NATO plan to secure €100 billion ($108.6 billion) in long-term support for Ukraine faces a "hard way" ahead, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has told DW.

"I think it's a very hard way towards the fund of new money that would be proposed to Ukraine," Landsbergis told DW’s Alexandra von Nahmen in Brussels.

"We've seen the discussions in Europe — they were tremendously difficult and not very fruitful, I can say. But then again, Lithuania will be a part of this coalition if that goes forward."

Lithuania's top diplomat said he had "heard a lot of concerns" from NATO nations. "There's not a lot of understanding as to how this fund would function, where the funds would come from," Landsbergis said.

NATO officials hope the proposal — seen as a bid to shore up Ukraine aid amid uncertainty over the possible return of Donald Trump to the White House — could be agreed by alliance members by July. 

Landsbergis' comments seem to contrast with those from Latvia's foreign minister, Krisjanis Karins, who in remarks carried by Reuters news agency said that new proposals for the fund and for NATO to coordinate Ukraine aid were both received with a generally positive attitude.

'Hard way' ahead for €100 billion NATO Ukraine fund plan

Skip next section Kyiv needs Patriots: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba
April 4, 2024

Kyiv needs Patriots: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, right, speaks with Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, April 4, 2024
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has joined NATO foreign ministers for talks in BrusselsImage: Johanna Geron/AP Photo/picture alliance

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has told the NATO summit that his country needs more US-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles to ward off attacks by Russian ballistic missiles.

"I don't want to spoil the party," Dmytro Kuleba said after congratulating NATO members on the alliance's 75th anniversary. "But my main message today will be Patriots."

"Saving Ukrainian lives, saving the Ukrainian economy, saving Ukrainian cities, depends on the availability of Patriots and other air defense systems in Ukraine. We're talking about Patriots because it's the only system that can intercept ballistic missiles," Kuleba said.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged its Western allies to provide it with the weaponry it needs to defend itself against the invasion by Russia, which is far superior in terms of the amount of munitions and weapons at its disposal.

Ukraine's Kuleba presses NATO on Patriot missile system

Skip next section US and Europe need each other: Stoltenberg
April 4, 2024

US and Europe need each other: Stoltenberg

 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (C) accompanied by the Chair of the Military Committee of NATO Admiral Rob Bauer (L), and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana (R)
Stoltenberg (C.) says the US and Europe are dependent on each other for securityImage: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed that the US needs its European allies for its own security and not just the other way round.

"Europe needs North America for its security," Stoltenberg said at a ceremony commemorating 75 years since the alliance's founding at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.

"At the same time, North America also needs Europe. European allies provide world-class militaries, vast intelligence networks and unique diplomatic leverage. Multiplying America's might."

"I don't believe in America alone, just as I don't believe in Europe alone. I believe in America and Europe together in NATO because we are stronger and safer together," he said. 

Stoltenberg's remarks appeared to reflect concerns that the US could reduce its backing for the Western military alliance should Donald Trump — an outspoken NATO critic — come to power in November's presidential elections.

DW's Alexandra von Nahmen said that the possible prospect that Trump could take the White House in November was behind Stoltenberg's proposal for NATO to take a bigger role in coordinating the delivery of aid and weapons to Ukraine, the aim being to secure such aid to Kyiv regardless of who wins the election.

Alliance's strength lies in unity, says NATO's Stoltenberg

Skip next section NATO central to European security: Germany's Baerbock
April 4, 2024

NATO central to European security: Germany's Baerbock

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said that NATO is a "central anchor of security" in Europe as the military alliance marks 75 years since its founding.

Baerbock told German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine posed the greatest-ever threat to peace in Europe.

She called for resolute support of Kyiv, saying this was the only way to defend freedom and democracy.

The foreign minister said she supported the proposal by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that aid for Ukraine should be centrally coordinated by the alliance, adding that durable and reliable structures for the support were vital.

Skip next section NATO facing new problems: DW correspondent
April 4, 2024

NATO facing new problems: DW correspondent

NATO has scored many successes in its 75-year history, but now confronts new challenges in view of China's increasing assertiveness and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, says DW's Alexandra von Nahmen.

She said the question of how to support Ukraine into the future was the biggest issue needing to be tackled by the alliance at this week's summit.

According to von Nahmen, Russian claims that its invasion of Ukraine is a result of missteps made by NATO are false, as NATO had been in an exchange with Moscow up until Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

She said the alliance considered Russian President Vladimir Putin as solely responsible for the war in Ukraine.

NATO, and particularly those members that border Ukraine, is intent on ensuring that Moscow does not win the war for the sake of security in Europe, von Nahmen said.

Skip next section How is NATO faring 75 years on?
April 4, 2024

How is NATO faring 75 years on?

When NATO was founded in 1949, the enemy was on its eastern border. Today, it seems things have come full circle: The alliance's 75th anniversary is overshadowed by Russia's war against Ukraine.

DW looks at the current state of NATO.

Skip next section Germany's Bundeswehr gets ready to defend NATO
April 4, 2024

Germany's Bundeswehr gets ready to defend NATO

NATO was created to act as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and the West German army trained for the defense against attacks from the east.

DW looks at how, three decades later, the Bundeswehr is once again preparing to counter the threat from Moscow.

Skip next section NATO marks 75 years since establishment
April 4, 2024

NATO marks 75 years since establishment

On day two of a meeting in Brussels, NATO foreign ministers will mark 75 years since the signing in Washington on April 4, 1949, of the North Atlantic Treaty that established the transatlantic political and military alliance.

NATO began with 12 members from North America and Europe and was founded in response to growing fears that the Soviet Union posed a military threat to Western Europe.

Seventy-five years later, NATO has 32 members with the newest members being Finland and Sweden, who joined the alliance following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The NATO diplomats will also meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who told the Reuters news agency that he would press them to provide more Patriot air defense systems to protect against Russian missile attacks.

Thursday will also feature a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of NATO's formation.

NATO celebrates its past, looks to the future

Skip next section What happened on Wednesday in NATO talks in Brussels
April 4, 2024

What happened on Wednesday in NATO talks in Brussels

Wednesday saw NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg say that the alliance needed to provide Ukraine with more systematic military support over a longer period, and that Kyiv's membership in the alliance is a matter of "when, not if."

Ahead of the meeting, Stoltenberg said Russia's invasion of Ukraine illustrated that NATO's security concerns are "global, not regional."

Stoltenberg declined to comment on a proposal for support for Ukraine worth €100 billion ($108 billion) over the next five years.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed that the proposals would be discussed over the course of the two-day Brussels meeting chaired by Stoltenberg.

The proposals received support from the foreign ministers of NATO members Latvia and Poland, whose countries both share borders with Russia.

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins said the proposal could be funded if allied members committed "a certain percentage of GDP."

Also on the agenda is the race to replace Stoltenberg who will be stepping down after nearly a decade of service.

Some ministers had hoped to choose his successor at the talks, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly having the backing of 90% of members.

Stoltenberg: Ukraine can rely on NATO for support

kb/rt (Reuters, dpa)