Nato Parliamentary Assembly: Nato summit must step up support for Ukraine, bolster defence capabilities

Nato must seize the opportunity of its 75th-anniversary summit to increase long-term support for Ukraine as well as bolstering the Alliance’s own capabilities to protect against threats from Russia and other global security challenges, lawmakers from across the 32-nation Alliance said on May 26 during a meeting in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia. 

“The current geopolitical context is arguably the most challenging since the Second World War … we have entered an era of global insecurity,” Portuguese member Marcos Perestrello told the Nato Parliamentary Assembly. 

“The stakes are very high, and the time for half-measures is over,” Perestrello said. “By ambitiously stepping up Nato’s defence and deterrence and by providing all the necessary support to Ukraine we would, in fact, reduce the likelihood of a war involving Nato Allies.” 

In a report drafted for the Assembly’s Political Committee, Slovak legislator Tomas Valasek said the anniversary summit scheduled for July 9-11 in Washington must reaffirm support for Kyiv “for as long as it takes for Ukraine to win, signalling to Putin that his hopes to wait out the West are futile.” 

Besides backing Ukraine, Nato needs to strengthen its own defences, particularly through greater efforts by European Allies to meet defence spending targets and to translate those increases into “actual military capability.” Allies must increase force numbers, rectify key equipment shortages and ramp up defence production. “Europe must step up,” Valasek insisted. 

Russia’s hybrid threat to Western democracy through disinformation, cyberattacks, sabotage and other destabilisation efforts was highlighted by investigative journalist Christo Grozev. “From a Russian perspective, they declared war on the West,” he told lawmakers via video-link. “Unless we, as the collective West, accept the fact that we are in a declared information war, there is no way we can fight it back effectively.” 

Grozev said Nato nations urgently need to upgrade their response, including through wider sanctions against Russian disinformation agents, stiffer controls on social media destabilisation campaigns and increased investment in coordinated counterintelligence. 

Beyond the threat from Russia, the Washington Summit should also optimise Nato’s preparedness to meet other challenges in the “precarious global security situation” including a revisionist China, international terrorism, the spread of disruptive technologies and climate change, Valasek’s draft report said. The summit should also move ahead on the creation of a Centre for Democratic Resilience at Nato headquarters. 

The report recommended that Nato leaders affirm that Ukraine’s path towards joining of the Alliance is “irreversible” and will go ahead once Kyiv meets the membership criteria. Yehor Cherniev, head of Ukraine’s delegation to the Assembly, reported progress towards compliance with the conditions, including strengthening democratic oversight of the armed forces, harmonising legislation with Nato treaties and reforming defence procurement. 

“We understand that our future depends on our efforts because we have to think not only about today, not only about the battlefield, but about our future in those institutions like Nato and the EU,” Cherniev said.  

Cherniev briefed the Political Committee on latest developments on the frontlines, including Russia’s bombing of a shopping centre in Kharkiv on Saturday that killed at least 12 civilians. He said that with more Western air defence equipment and a lifting of restrictions on the use of Western-supplied weapons on Russian territory, such tragedies could be avoided.  

“The strike was carried out by an aircraft from Russian airspace, we were unable to shoot it down due to the lack of permission to use Western weapons on Russian territory,” Cherniev said. Such restrictions also hampered Ukraine’s ability to defend against the Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region.  

Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine has increased risks for other European countries outside Nato, including Moldova, Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, noted Romanian lawmaker Ana-Maria Catauta. Nato should move to increase its engagement with all three countries to help them tackle threats to democratic institutions, including Russian-backed intimidation. 

“Reassuring these partners not only advances their aspirations but also strengthens the broader Euro-Atlantic community’s resilience against authoritarian threats,” Catauta wrote in a draft report for the Political Committee.

There was substantial debate in the Committee on Georgia’s legislation on the so-called “transparency of foreign influence.” Earlier Sunday, the Assembly issued a statement calling the bill “a step backwards for Georgia’s democracy” which “runs counter to its Nato as well as EU aspirations and values.” 

Nato Allies must urgently ramp up military, financial and diplomatic support for Ukraine and inflict higher costs on Russia with tough sanctions if they hope to turn the tide in the war, parliamentarians from Nato nations and experts warned on May 25. 

In debate on a series of draft reports, legislators also weighed the influence of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles on the battlefield and the lessons Nato must learn as it modernises its air defences. 

In the Defence and Security Committee (DSC), Bulgaria’s caretaker Defence Minister of Bulgaria Atanas Zapryanov said the “first and best line of defence today is to make sure Ukraine receives all the needed weapons to defeat the Russian aggression, and it must be done now.” 

Presenting a draft report on the war and Allied support, US Congressman Rick Larsen said Ukraine’s key challenges are manpower, fortifications and munitions, with Russia’s illegal war of aggression now into its third year. Nato must step up on the latter, he insisted. 

“The time to act is now. The consequences of failure are too great,” he said. “Ukrainian forces have already demonstrated they have the capabilities and determination to turn the tide of the war, but they need our help.” 

Larsen’s draft report highlighted Ukraine’s need for air defence and missile systems, precision long-range weapons, artillery batteries – and ammunition to use them – as well as infantry fighting vehicles, battle tanks, small arms bullets and demining equipment. 

Providing this materiel means boosting defence industrial production at home to ensure that Ukraine gets what it needs, and to replenish Allied military stocks. The draft report argued that Nato must also expand its training programs for the Ukrainian armed forces. 

Allies were also urged to step up bilateral financial support to help Ukraine’s government to breathe life into its economy and to fund the country’s fight against Russia. 

In the Science and Technology Committee, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute Justin Bronk said that funding delays from Western partners have been a source of some of Ukraine’s woes. 

“The problem really is that we starved them of ammunition for six months, so it is on us to fix,” Bronk said. But he added that if Ukraine can survive till year’s end “Russia’s position starts to get significantly worse again … they will start to run out of (weapon) stocks.” 

The state of Russia’s economy and whether international sanctions against the Kremlin are working were high on the agenda in the Economics and Security Committee, notably in debate on a draft report by Hungarian lawmaker Tamás Harangozó. 

According to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth in Russia could double this year. Still, the draft report notes serious challenges for Moscow, among them high war costs, poor governance, an over-reliance on energy money and systemic corruption. 

Sanctions are slowly working, but much hinges on the West’s determination to up the ante.  

“Our governments need to undertake more concerted efforts to tighten and enforce sanctions and consider secondary sanctions on countries directly violating these terms,” Harangozó said as he presented the draft text. 

He underlined the challenges posed by the fact that China, India, Brazil and South Africa are not taking part in sanctions. But he also noted that Russia is growing dependent on China, selling cheap energy in exchange for high-tech components and machine tools. 

“More intensive diplomatic efforts are needed to discourage third country trade with Russia, particularly in strategic sectors like militarily useful technologies. Incentives are needed to move countries in this direction,” Harangozó warned. 

Further discussion in the DSC drilled down on the ways that superiority on the battlefield in Ukraine often hinges on drones and missile systems and how Russia is using the conflict to hone its capabilities. 

“We are seeing an extensive use of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and in particular lately the very interesting use of glide bombs, which have been very destructive on Ukraine,” said Radoslava Stefanova, Head of Nato’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section. 

“We’re also seeing these capabilities being used together to multiply the effect,” she said. 

draft report by Turkish member of parliament Utku Cakirozer warned of the urgent need to strengthen Nato’s air and missile defences given that “significant challenges” lay ahead to create a modern, capable and integrated system across the Alliance. 

“For a credible, 360-degree defence, Allies need more air and missile defence systems of all kinds – from very-short range MANPADs to long-range Patriots,” he said. “Air defences from different national suppliers must fit seamlessly into a coherent Nato network.” 

This means spending at least 2% on defence, with 20% of that on new equipment – notably on drones, which act as battlefield managers, and on counter-UAV systems – as well as ensuring that vital funds flow through to the defence industrial base. 

“The task ahead of us is not easy,” Cakirozer said. “The post-Cold War era of relative stability and security is over, so we must prepare for a different and more challenging future.” 

(Photo: Nato)

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