Krieg in Europa
NATO, G7 and EU come together for a show of Western unity
The series started with an extraordinary NATO Summit on Thursday morning. At the summit, Allied leaders called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war in Ukraine immediately. In response to the threat posed by Russia’s aggression, NATO leaders also decided to reset NATO’s longer-term deterrence and defence posture across all domains, land, sea, air, cyber and space.
Concrete measures include the establishment of four new multinational NATO battlegroups to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. President Biden noted that the measure “is a strong signal that we will collectively defend and protect every inch of NATO territory”. With four already active in the Baltic countries and Poland, this brings the total number of NATO battlegroups up to eight.
Threat of Chemical Attacks is a Particular Concern
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also announced that the Alliance would provide equipment to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, as well as additional cybersecurity assistance. This will complement the ongoing provision of military equipment, which currently includes drones and anti-tank and air defence systems.
The threat of chemical attacks is a particular concern. Several Western leaders have warned over the past weeks that Russia may be prepared to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. This is also seen as a direct threat to NATO allies in the bordering countries. Ahead of the meetings, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) commented that Europe must “think about every possible option that Russia could do and we have to prepare for that”.
Extension of Stoltenberg's Mandate
During the meeting, the leaders also agreed to extend the term of Stoltenberg until 30 September 2023. With this unanimous decision, Western allies gave a signal that they opt for stability at this time of unprecedented change. With the ongoing war, this will enable NATO to fully focus on its mission and without distractions from a leadership change.
In a sign of unique Western unity, the G7 meeting was embedded in the NATO Summit. Under the German G7 Presidency, the seven leaders were hosted at the NATO Headquarters for a meeting in the economic format, also attended by the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida.
Following the G7 meeting, 22 of the 30 NATO leaders, including President Biden, continued to the European Council meeting, where they were joined by EU leaders from non-NATO countries. The war in Ukraine was again on top of the agenda, although with a different emphasis. The big topic of the evening was energy sanctions, a critical topic for many EU members who import energy from Russia.
Also on the agenda is the Strategic Compass, an initiative that aims to strengthen the EU’s security and defence policies around the themes of crisis management, defence capabilities, resilience and partnerships. EU leaders are expected to endorse this initiative, which includes the establishment of a EU Rapid Deployment Capacity with 5.000 troops. This development is unlikely to change the course of the war in Ukraine, but it will provide new impetus to the EU’s aim of gaining more strategic autonomy in the future.
The European Council meeting will last until midday on Friday 25 March, followed by a press conference by European Council President, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. That will wrap up an unprecedented meeting marathon, in which the West has shown itself unified in its effort to stop the war in Ukraine and strengthening Europe’s security for the years to come.