The jubilee summit of the European Union, which took place on 9 July, produced some results for Kyiv. The European Union qualified Russia as an aggressor, called for maintaining the sanctions against it until the Minsk agreement provisions are executed, praised Ukraine for reform implementation and promised to provide investment support for the nation.
Today another two-day NATO summit kicks off in Brussels. Ukraine expects the summit if not to produce life-changing decisions, then at least to put out some “clear signals”.
Main topics of the NATO summit
According to the Alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, the decision to invite the Republic of North Macedonia to join NATO after its dispute with Greece is settled, is going to be one of the main topics of the event.
Alongside that, the need to increase military and financial aid to Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism.
It is expected that the delegates are going to discuss the issue of member states' defense spending. In 2014, member states committed not to cut it, moreover, to gradually raise it above the 2% of GDP mark. Eight members of the Alliance intend to get close to that level in 2018. There were only three such countries in 2014. However, the US President Donald Trump is not thrilled with such pace. According to the President, the United States contributes some 4% of its GDP, while Germany contributes only 1% of its gross domestic product. He considers it unfair and unacceptable.
Along with that, another topic up for discussion at the summit is NATO modernization (namely the improvement of a command structure within the Alliance, particularly, the creation of two new authorities for quick relocation of units in the Atlantic and in Europe).
Moreover, security problems in the Transatlantic area, in particular, the Middle East, Africa, the situation on the Korean peninusla and Russia's foreign policy (that is becoming "ever more stubborn", according to Stoltenberg) are among the supposed headliners.
At first, it was expected that the agenda of the summit would include a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO commission at the highest level. However, upset at Ukraine, Hungary has blocked that opportunity again. Budapest claims that Kyiv has hit it in the back three times: with the Ukrainian education law, with the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law deemed unconstitutional, as well as with the intent to punish individuals for dual citizenship.
Kyiv was offered a compromise solution: to meet in a three-party format of NATO-Ukraine-Georgia (Stoltenberg referred to those countries as the “NATO’s closest partners”). The event will take place 10 years after the Bucharest summit, where Georgia and Ukraine were promised they would become part of NATO.
The meeting is expected to include discussions on reforms in the defense industry, as well as on support for these countries from NATO.
What should Ukraine expect from the NATO summit
Another important topic is going to be the Afghanistan issue, as the NATO mission includes Ukraine among others. The participation of Ukrainians in peacemaking operations may turn out to be one of Ukraine’s trumps during the summit. In the context of a discussion regarding Russia’s foreign policy, the Donbas war is going to be discussed too. Whether or not it will include tough demands towards Moscow is still unknown.
Kyiv's biggest expectation is a signal of a possible membership in the Alliance (that would replace the candidacy as a “grad”), which Ukraine has been counting on for the last 10 years. The law on national security recently signed by President Petro Poroshenko is going to be evaluated too.
However, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada Roman Vashchuk has suggested that there will be no concrete decision made in regards to Kyiv's bId to become a member of NATO. “The reality points out to the fact that it will not happen now, not at this summit at least. We need to exhibit unity throughout the Alliance, and that is going to be the most important topic to focus on during the summit”, - the diplomat said. That being said, however, he anticipates the discussion of the Ukrainian question in a positive meaning.
Vadim Pristayko, the head of Ukraine's NATO Liaison Office, also named two other aims: a confirmation of the Alliance’s support for Kyiv (non-recognition of Crimea occupation, a demand to free political prisoners, a disavowal of the construction of the Kerch bridge, support for the peacekeeping mission throughout the uncontrolled area of Donbas), as well as the development of practical cooperation with NATO (equipment and personnel training).
Both Poroshenko and Stoltenberg are expected to make a joint statement after the trilateral meeting.
It has been reported earlier that Hungary could block that initiative. However, today the country’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto promised not to do that. The diplomat, however, stressed that the controversial education law may disable any meetings between Ukraine and the Alliance at the highest level, as well as bilateral decisions.
At the same time, Ukraine has big hopes on bilateral meetings between Poroshenko and leaders of NATO member states, namely with the French President Emmanuel Macron and the Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte. The possibility of negotiations with the US counterpart, Donald Trump, also should not be ruled out.
"Trump is not welcome here"
The NATO summit is kicking off amid protests. A march against the visit of the US President Donald Trump with a “Trump’s not welcome here” slogan took place in Brussels on 7 July.
Representatives of various organizations have come forward to oppose the increase of defense spending, racism, sexism, severe austerity measures, with demands to re-unite migrants with their families, as well as the closure of coal and nuclear power stations.
Earlier, Donald Trump sent out written statements asking to increase defense spending to multiple leaders of NATO member states. The demands made by the US President have not been fulfilled by the allies.
The plane with the US President on board landed in Brussels at 20:50 on Tuesday.
According to Le Soir, the Trumps were not met by the highest Belgian officials (as was the case last year), as … everybody was watching football. King Phillip and the country’s foreign minister Didier were in Saint Petersburg at the football game between Belgium and France. The Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michelle was also watching the game – in the fan zone of Brent-le-Cont, a small town in Belgium.
Instead, Trump was met by the head of the protocol of Belgium’s Foreign Ministry Francoise Goisten. The newspaper points out that all the other 29 leaders of countries and governments will be met at the same level.
However, there is a suspicion that Trump may create a scandal and not sign the final declaration (we all remember how the G7 summit went). Whatever the case may be, according to Stoltenberg, a “tough discussion” is expected to take place in Brussels on 11-12 July.