2021 NATO Summit Communique: NATO doors remain open for Georgia, Ukraine
“Georgia will become a member of NATO and the Membership Action Plan will become an integral part of this process”, NATO communiqué stated in a summary of the 2021 summit in Brussels.
The same position is expressed in the document on Ukraine.
This means that the pledge made to these countries during the 2008 Bucharest summit on providing them with a NATO Membership Action Plan remains in place. However, no specific dates have been established for the next 13 years.
“Our message is that the door to NATO is open, and we have confirmed this in the last few years when Montenegro and North Macedonia joined the alliance”, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
According to him, at the summit, the NATO allies will not name the exact date when Georgia will be joining the alliance. Stoltenberg added that only the applicant country and its allies must make a decision on expansion and “Russia has no right to interfere in this process”.
This is the first summit in Brussels attended by Joe Biden as President of the United States. Unlike previous summits, Georgia and Ukraine were not invited to participate due to the summit’s short duration.
NATO communique: Georgia
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that at the NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, “important decisions were made with regard to Georgia, both in the context of Georgia’s membership and with the future adaptation of the Alliance itself”.
Some aspects that were reflected in the communiqué on Georgia:
● Communiqué confirmed the decision of the Bucharest summit about Georgia becoming a member of NATO remains in place and Georgia has all “practical tools to prepare for possible membership”.
● The Alliance continues to have an unambiguous position on the occupied territories – the member states reaffirm their support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and policy of non-recognition. NATO leaders called on Moscow to reverse its decision to recognize the occupied territories as independent states, abide by the 2008 ceasefire agreement and “put an end to human rights violations, arbitrary detention and persecution of Georgian citizens”.
● Tbilisi is especially pleased with NATO’s assessment of Russia-related issues. The Alliance stresses Georgia’s sovereign right to choose its own foreign policy priorities and that no third party should interfere in this process.
● Member states describe Russia as “aggressive” in its attempt to separate the two occupied regions from the rest of Georgia.
● The communiqué highlights serious humanitarian and security problems in the occupied regions – increased incidence of borderisation, abduction of Georgian citizens, their illegal detention and persecution.
● At the summit, allies agreed to improve the readiness, response and defense of the Alliance. Based on this decision, Georgia hopes that “the presence of NATO in the Black Sea region will increase further and become a serious deterrent”.
“It is especially important for Georgia that the allies correctly assess the destructiveness of Russia’s policy in the Black Sea region and express their readiness to further strengthen cooperation with Georgia in the field of security in the Black Sea”, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
● In addition, Georgia, “as a future NATO member,” considers the Alliance’s decision to update NATO’s Strategic Concept, which is expected to be approved at the Alliance’s 2022 summit, as very important. Tbilisi hopes that the new concept will “adequately reflect” the open door policy and the issue of future NATO expansion. Tbilisi expects the new document to offer “a clear and concrete strategy of the Alliance for the Black Sea region”.
● The North Atlantic Alliance intends to further deepen the fight against destructive forces waging a hybrid war not only with member countries, but also with partner countries in order to destabilize them. In this regard, the Alliance intends to strengthen its capabilities and deepen cooperation with non-member countries.
● The communiqué states that by making a “significant contribution” to NATO operations, Georgia, in turn, has demonstrated its willingness and ability to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security.
According to Tengiz Pkhaladze, associate professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), the NATO summit in Brussels was not an enlargement summit, so Tbilisi should not have had high expectations about it:
“I think that from this three-hour mini-summit, this was the maximum that could be achieved”, the analyst said in an interview with Radio Liberty.
“The communique is one thing, but a very important topic is NATO’s new strategic concept. This concept is updated every 10 years and defines the key strategic goals of the Alliance for a 10-year period. It is very important not only that Georgia is mentioned in the communique, but also that this strategic concept is applicable to the region in which we are also considered, and this is important for us, this is the security of the Black Sea”, the expert said.
According to him, the strategic concept confirms NATO’s readiness for further expansion and that the Black Sea region must be protected.
In parallel with the NATO summit, a forum was held in Brussels, within the framework of which Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili was invited. Garibashvili told the Alliance members and partner countries about the difficulties of the hybrid war and the Russian occupation of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia.
NATO communique: Ukraine
In the final communiqué of the summit, the leaders of the Alliance also expressed support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and, like in the case of Georgia, noted that in the future this country will also become a NATO member.
After Moscow deployed 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has actively called for the submission of a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine.
At a press conference following the summit of NATO leaders, Secretary-General of the Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, when asked whether the decision on Ukraine’s accession to NATO depends on Russia, said: “It is for Ukraine and NATO members to decide when Kyiv will join the Alliance. Russia has nothing to do with this decision”.
US President Joe Biden said after the summit that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine does not mean that Kyiv will never be able to become a member of NATO. The decision on whether Ukraine will or will not join the alliance depends on compliance with NATO criteria, among which the US President singled out the fight against corruption.
“[Ukraine’s accession to NATO] depends on whether it meets the criteria. The facts are: it still needs to fight corruption, it still needs to meet other criteria to get the Action Plan [NATO Membership] … This has not yet happened”, Biden said.
At the same time, the US President assured that the Alliance will support Ukraine “so that it can continue to withstand Russia’s aggression”.
“It depends not only on me whether Ukraine can join NATO – it will depend on the entire Alliance and how they vote. But I know for sure: they [Ukraine] have to convince [the Alliance that they meet the criteria] – and it’s not easy”, Biden added.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, commenting on the decision of the NATO summit on the prospects for Ukraine’s membership, said that Kiyv took it “positively”.
“At the same time, the decision of the current summit lacks a specific time frame for the next steps in our rapprochement with NATO, which we hoped to obtain”, he said.
President Biden invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the White House in July.
Highlights of the 32nd NATO 14 June 2021 Summit in Brussels
Threats from Russia and challenges from China
In the summit’s communiqué, the main points were statements on China and Russia, although they differ significantly in content and tone.
“Russia’s aggressive actions pose a threat to Euro-Atlantic security”, the communique says.
With regard to China, the communique expressed NATO’s intention to develop an alternative plan of confrontation in connection with “the growing influence of China in countries with a weak and medium level of economic development and its international policy”. It also stated that NATO countries intend to actively interact with China “in order to protect the security interests of the Alliance”.
Cyberattacks are one of the most serious threats to global security
The leaders of 30 NATO countries unanimously believe that not direct military action, but cyberattacks may become the reason for activating Article 5 of the mutual self-defense agreement. “The impact of significant malicious cyber activity can, under certain circumstances, be considered an armed attack”, the communiqué said. But at the same time, it was noted that “the decision on when and what cyberattack should lead to the application of Article 5 will be made by the Euro-Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis”.
Meeting of the Presidents of the United States and Russia
The meeting is scheduled for June 16 in Geneva. US President Joe Biden, when asked about it said that he “intends to clarify to Putin where the ‘red lines’ are”:
“I’m going to make it clear to President Putin that there are areas in which we can cooperate if he wants to. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts as he did in the past with respect to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond, and we will respond in kind”.
Biden declined to give further details.
US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the strategic importance of the Kabul airport, and the role of Turkey
NATO leaders generally supported the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, however, some member states indicated that they expected that a consultation on the issue would be held with them ahead of the summit.
The importance of maintaining security in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops, especially in Kabul, was also addressed. NATO leaders agreed to provide “temporary funding” for the continuation of the international airport in Kabul. This item became one of the main points during the tete-a-tete meeting of the presidents of the United States and Turkey within the framework of the summit. The meeting lasted for 90 minutes and its duration was noted by all observers.
Both presidents briefly summed up the results of this meeting “as very productive”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the meeting that Turkey is ready to take control of the operation of the Kabul airport:
“If the United States does not want Turkey to withdraw from Afghanistan, then they must provide us with active diplomatic, logistical and financial support. Moreover, the reality of the Taliban cannot be denied. We will start negotiating with the Taliban as well. We want to help the people of Afghanistan overcome their troubles. Let’s give them this support”.
Confront the threat of populism and autocracies
At a press conference after the summit, the US President urged NATO members to “confront autocrats and fake populism, root out corruption, defend against hate and invest in strengthening of the democratic values”.