Accession of Ukraine, succession of Jens Stoltenberg and military spending: the foreign ministers of the NATO countries will try Thursday in Oslo to find compromises on these three thorny issues on the agenda for the Vilnius summit in July.
Discussions will essentially focus on security guarantees to accompany Ukraine on its path to membership and avoid a new conflict with Russia.
“We must ensure that history does not repeat itself,” said the alliance’s general secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, at the opening of the Oslo meeting.
“That’s why we need to put in place frameworks to provide Ukraine with security guarantees after the end of the war,” he stressed.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for “tangible and credible security guarantees” on Wednesday.
The position of the United States will be crucial. Washington refuses for the time being that NATO grants such security guarantees to Ukraine, explained to AFP a minister on condition of anonymity.
Such guarantees, which consist of officially displaying support for a country in the event of aggression, were recently offered by several Alliance countries to Sweden, whose membership is blocked by Turkey and Hungary.
After the re-election of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opposed to Swedish membership, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced Thursday that he would soon travel to Ankara to try to remove the last obstacles to Swedish membership.
But it is a broader enlargement to the east, with the integration of Kyiv, which divides the allies more deeply.
To protect Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron referred to the promise of protection provided to Israel by the United States.
“We have to see what our countries can offer, not necessarily within the framework of NATO,” French Minister Catherine Colonna explained in Oslo. “The reflection is in progress,” she said.
“It is important for Ukraine to have access to military equipment, training, but also financial support. These must be concrete guarantees,” insisted his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly.
Kyiv wants “a very clear message”
The risks are great. “NATO is going to be 75 years old and never has a country in armed conflict joined, because it could trigger article 5 on the day of its entry and in the case of Ukraine it would be war between NATO and Russia,” argued Luxembourg Minister Jean Asselborn.
Without consensus, there will be no decision, recalled the NATO boss. However, one month before the meeting, no point has been settled.
The Lithuanian leaders, hosts of the Vilnius summit, are worried about it and say they fear a failure, which is irritating.
Kyiv’s expectations are enormous. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants “a very clear message” that Ukraine will join the Alliance “after the war”.
“In Vilnius, there will probably be no date or timetable for membership, because many things remain to be decided. It is a path with stages and progressions”, underlined Catherine Colonna.
Jens Stoltenberg refuses to come forward. “No one is able to tell you exactly what the final decision at the Vilnius summit will be on this issue,” he said.
Appointed in 2014, the 64-year-old Norwegian is coming to the end of his term, which has already been extended three times, including again last year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
His successor should be a European. The member countries of the European Union would like the appointment of a woman from their ranks.
US President Joe Biden, who will have the last word, is due to receive Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, a potential candidate, on June 5.
“The choice is always made at the last minute and the reappointment of Jens Stoltenberg is still on the table”, confide diplomats from the alliance.
The person concerned, he repeats wanting to withdraw.
The military expenditure of his country is a selection criterion for the future new boss.
The allies have pledged to devote 2% of their GDP to them in 2024 and the plan is to do a minimum.
However, only seven countries, including the United States, have reached the target.
Ms. Frederiksen’s Denmark, which at 1.4% currently is far from having fulfilled its share of the requested effort, opportunely announced this week a tripling of its military expenditure by 2033.