NATO defense ministers start 2-day meeting to discuss support for Ukraine, preparations for July summit
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg ruled out on Thursday extension in his mandate as head of the 31-nation military alliance.
Speaking to reporters on the way to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Stoltenberg said he did not have “any intention for seeking another extension” of his mandate as secretary general.
Serving as NATO chief since 2014, Stoltenberg’s mandate was prolonged in 2022 because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Norwegian is due to step down in September, and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace are said to be the two possible contenders for the top post in the US-led group.
Support for Ukraine
The two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers will start with a series of discussions on the situation in Ukraine.
Ukrainian defense chief Oleksii Reznikov will join his NATO counterparts at the meetings of the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group and the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
Stoltenberg stressed that NATO’s support for Ukraine “makes a difference on the battlefield” as Kyiv is advancing with its counter-offensive against Russia.
He said the NATO defense ministers are expected to make “many more new pledges” to help Ukraine.
Stoltenberg explained that besides further ammunition supply, Ukraine needs maintenance support for the defense systems that have already been delivered.
Preparation for Vilnius summit
The defense ministers will also prepare for the NATO leaders’ summit to be held in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on July 11-12.
To strengthen NATO’s defense and deterrence capabilities, they will discuss “new regional plans, a new force model and new force structure,” according to Stoltenberg.
They will also address scenarios on increasing the defense investment target from the current 2% of GDP.
The ministers will deliberate on plans to ramp up defense industry production and replenishing stockpiles by setting a higher capability target for battle-decisive ammunition for each NATO nation, the secretary general said.
They are also expected to approve a new NATO center for the protection of critical infrastructure in the UK, he added.