A year after Russia’s invasion, Allied parliamentarians discuss unwavering support to Ukraine, NATO’s adaptation ahead of Vilnius Summit

23 February 2023

Some 120 parliamentarians from 28 Allied countries and NATO invitee Sweden came together in Brussels from 20 to 22 February for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s annual Joint Committee Meetings. Consultations with senior NATO officials focused on Allies’ ongoing, unwavering support for Ukraine and on NATO’s profound adaptation following last June’s historic Madrid Summit.

Almost a year after the start of Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, Allied parliamentarians expressed their unflinching support for Ukraine, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, democracy and right to self-defence and self-determination. They also stressed the need for Russia to be held accountable for all of its crimes in Ukraine – crime of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and potential acts of genocide – and urged Allies to consider using Russian frozen assets to help finance Ukraine’s reconstruction.

NATO and Allies have condemned Russia’s renewed war against Ukraine and stood with Ukraine from day one. They continue to speed up and increase their military, humanitarian and financial assistance in support of Kyiv. Allied governments contribute a wide range of military equipment through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group process, with ammunition and air defence as ongoing key priorities. In parallel, NATO is providing non-lethal military and humanitarian assistance and enhancing practical cooperation with Ukraine within the enhanced Comprehensive Assistance Package.

The Kremlin had initially expected that they would defeat Ukraine in several days. This was a terrible miscalculation. However, despite heavy losses, President Putin is doubling down. Several interlocutors warned that neither Russia’s capacity to regenerate depleted capabilities nor its will to fight, despite substantial losses of equipment and soldiers, should be underestimated.

For its part, NATO has adapted its deterrence and defence posture to a fundamentally altered security situation. This adaptation started already in 2014, following Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, but was enhanced substantially after the start of the full-scale war on 24 February 2022. As a key element of the strengthened deterrence and defence posture, NATO maintains eight multinational battle groups along NATO’s Eastern flank from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Parliamentarians also heard about the ongoing, fundamental role of NATO’s nuclear deterrence, NATO’s focus on innovation and emerging disruptive technologies as well as the important contribution of the Alliance’s integrated air and missile defence.

Allied nations have made notable progress in meeting NATO’s defence spending and investment targets, although much remains to be done. Parliamentarians heard that there is growing recognition in Allied capitals that the 2% GDP spending goal should be seen as a minimum requirement and not a ceiling. The need to urgently reconstitute depleted stocks of equipment by ramping up the defence industrial base was a common theme.

Allied Heads of State and Government adopted a ground-breaking new Strategic Concept at their Summit meeting in Madrid in June 2022. This includes several innovations, notably a recognition that China’s ambitions and actions challenge Allied interests, values and security. Parliamentarians were particularly concerned about the risks of closer Russia-China cooperation. 

Importantly, the Strategic Concept reaffirms the shared democratic values that underly Allied cohesion and places them at the centre of the Alliance’s response to today’s threats and challenges. Parliamentarians stressed the importance of implementing this commitment, including through the establishment of a Democratic Resilience Centre at NATO Headquarters.  

Members also discussed NATO and EU efforts to counter Russia’s hostile information activities. Both NATO and the EU’s approach to countering disinformation is increasingly proactive rather than reactive, focusing on promulgating wider narratives and “pre-bunking” disinformation.

Lastly, the NATO parliamentarians considered how to ensure continued access to essential energy supplies in the short-term, while preparing for longer-term adoption of more sustainable and secure sources of energy. This is not simply an economic matter, many noted, but rather a fundamental security challenge to be addressed with alacrity.

Parliamentarians held a minute of silence at the start of the meetings, and, throughout the three-day gathering, they reiterated their solidarity with Türkiye in the wake of the terrible earthquakes that have struck that country.

Members also extended their condolences to the Greek delegation after the recent passing of one of its leaders, Manousos Voloudakis, who had been a Vice Chairperson of the NATO PA’s Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group.

These meetings of the NATO PA’s Defence and Security, Economics and Security as well as Political Committees are hosted by the Belgium Parliament every year and are held under the Chatham House rule. They include briefings by leading NATO and EU officials as well as the annual joint meeting between the Assembly’s leadership and the North Atlantic Council.

Cover photo courtesy of the Belgian MFA.
Photos of the meetings  

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