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The Warsaw Summit

Poland hosts the next summit meeting of NATO heads of state and government in Warsaw on 8-9th July. Decisions are issued in declarations and communiqués throughout the two day summit. The last summit hosted by the UK in Newport in Wales in September 2014. Defence and Foreign Ministers of the 28 members of the Alliance meet regularly between summits. Warsaw is the 27th summit since the Alliance was created in 1949. Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary-General of NATO. All decisions are taken by consensus.

What’s on the agenda?

How NATO responds to the different yet equally challenging situations along its eastern and southern flanks will dominate the summit. NATO faces a “more complex array of challenges and threats than it has since at least the end of the Cold War” with an “aggressive and assertive Russia” to the east and an unstable Middle East and North Africa to the south, says NATO’s deputy Secretary-General.

Specific decisions are expected to include: 

  • An ‘enhanced forward presence’ of four battalions, provided on a multinational, rotational basis, in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland (the UK is expected to lead the one in Estonia) to act as a deterrent to Russia. Other measures may include an enhancement of NATO’s presence in the Black Sea region, continuing the high tempo of multinational exercises and improvements to NATO’s logistical capabilities in Eastern Europe
  • A joint statement with the EU about closer NATO-EU relations
  • Enhance its naval presence in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas to support EU efforts in responding to the migration crisis and to disrupt human traffickers
  • Continue Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan beyond 2016
  • Reaffirm the Defence Investment Pledges: to spend 2% of GDP on defence and 20% of defence spending on equipment within a decade
  • A greater focus on cyber-defence with cyberspace an operational domain

The UK and NATO

The UK’s membership of NATO is unchanged by the result of the referendum on membership of the EU. However this is the first NATO meeting to be held since the UK voted to leave the EU in the referendum on 23 June. As such, while strictly speaking not on the agenda, it will inevitably be a topic of conversation.

The UK is a founding member of NATO and one of its largest military forces. It is one of only a handful of members able to deploy an operational headquarters – i.e. to command a mission.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has identified the UK’s goals for the summit as: supporting the NATO response to Russia; press Allies to comply with the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, as the UK does; and make the Alliance more adaptable to deal with new threats, including cyber and hybrid warfare.

The UK is expected to lead one of the new multinational battalions to be deployed in the Baltic States. RAF Typhoon aircraft are currently deployed as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission, the third such deployment in as many years. The UK will lead the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2017 and has significantly increased the number of personnel participating in NATO exercises.

The Defence Select Committee will publish its report on Russia: implications for UK defence and security on Tuesday 5 July 2016 and there will be a statement on the report in the House of Commons on Thursday 7 July.

About NATO

NATO is a military alliance formed in 1949. It currently consists of 28 members – America, Canada and 26 European nations. Montenegro is set to become the 29th member.

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