NATO leaders urged to press on with adaptation, speed up Sweden’s entry

22 May 2023

NATO leaders were urged on Monday to press ahead with a vast adaptation programme as Russia’s war against Ukraine fuels the biggest overhaul within the Alliance since the Cold War by operationalising the commitment to democratic values and further strengthening deterrence and defence. 

In a declaration adopted unanimously during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Spring Session, legislators also appealed to the leaders, who meet in Vilnius on July 11-12, to swiftly finalise Sweden’s accession to the Alliance. 

NATO PA President Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (France), who will present the Assembly’s recommendations at the Vilnius Summit, said that in a world marked by growing strategic rivalry and a clash of values, “it is useful to go back to basics: to what defines us, what unites us and what we stand for. Our identity, our DNA, is our values: democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law.”  

Given the need to help respond to attempts by authoritarian powers to undermine democracies, the declaration, presented by Linda Sanchez, Member of the US House of Representatives and NATO PA Vice-President, emphasised the NATO PA’s firm belief that a Centre for Democratic Resilience must be set up at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

“The Vilnius Summit must direct NATO to put in place concrete architecture, concrete tools and mechanisms to operationalize the renewed commitment to shared democratic values in the new Strategic Concept,” said Congresswoman Sanchez.

“The commitment cannot remain purely rhetorical. We must continue to press for the establishment of a Democratic Resilience Center at NATO Headquarters,” Sanchez said.

The declaration also urges Allied leaders to set a new defence spending and investment target, “exceeding a minimum investment level of 2% of GDP”.
The need to expand military spending by the 31 Allies has been highlighted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Not only have nations bolstered Euro-Atlantic defences to deter President Vladimir Putin from targeting any member country, they have also spent billions on support for Ukraine.
Luxembourg Defence Minister François Bausch, whose country hosted the May 19-22 Session, underlined the work being done with NATO in areas ranging from space to cyber security, and the extensive support that his government is providing to Ukraine.

“Luxembourg is committed to doubling its defence spending by 2028,” vowed Bausch, who joined his Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and President of the parliament Fernand Etgen in addressing Monday’s sitting.

The Assembly also called on leaders “to boost awareness of China’s systemic challenge,” including its attempts to partner with Russia to undermine democracy and the rules-based order, while continuing to seek opportunities for constructive dialogue with Beijing.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana warned that, given Europe’s past reliance on Russia for energy, the Allies must “be careful not to swap one dependency on an authoritarian regime for another. Most notably China.”

“Chinese rare earth materials are present everywhere in our societies. We cannot give authoritarian regimes the chance to exploit our vulnerabilities and undermine us,” Geoana said. He insisted that China is not an adversary, “but we have to be clear eyed that China does not share our values – of freedom, democracy, human rights – and that it poses a challenge to our interests and to our security.”

To boost resilience more broadly, the leaders were urged to identify and mitigate strategic vulnerabilities and dependencies, notably with respect to critical infrastructure, supply chains and energy and health sectors. That should be done in close coordination with military, civilian and private actors.

The strategic partnership between NATO and the EU should be strengthened too, the text said. It could be done by increasing political consultations and cooperation in matters of shared interest, in line with a roadmap that operationalises the commitments made in the EU-NATO Joint Declaration in January.
The head of the Swedish Delegation at the Assembly, Hans Wallmark, also set out his hopes for his country to become the 32nd member of NATO in the near future.

“I am confident that Sweden will be a seen as an active, reliable, and trusted Ally in NATO,” said Wallmark. He underlined that his country is determined to address any member’s concerns, and that “Sweden is fully committed to fighting terrorism, with determination, resolve and in solidarity.”

The meeting was the first Assembly session to welcome Finnish lawmakers as members of the Alliance. “Finland is a security provider, not a consumer. … The whole society is well-prepared for crisis”, said head of the delegation Jarmo Lindberg, highlighting Finland’s contribution to NATO. “It goes without saying that the Swedish membership in NATO will strengthen the whole Alliance.”

Beyond finalising Sweden’s membership and setting a path for Ukraine to join, the lawmakers emphasised the need for tailored support packages for hopefuls Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and support for their Euro-Atlantic integration.

The Assembly is institutionally separate from NATO, but serves as an essential link between NATO and the parliaments of the NATO nations. It provides greater transparency of NATO policies, and fosters better understanding of the Alliance’s objectives and missions among legislators and citizens of the Alliance .

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