What does the British Government Want from NATO Summit Wales?

 On the 1st of September, Number 10 released a policy paper on what the British government aims to achieve from the upcoming NATO summit. It lists five priorities, contains some interesting language, and omits some important developments.

There are five main areas our government will be looking at in the NATO Summit Wales. The crisis in Ukraine and our relationship with Russia, Afghanistan’s future, ‘tackling new threats’ (terrorism, cyber terrorism, and defense spending), strengthening support for our armed forces, and strengthening partnerships.  

The first thing to note is the exclusion of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. NATO has a huge stake in Iraq, and one of its members is currently engaged in air strikes. Of course, the British government has consistently made it clear that there will be no British boots on the ground in Iraq (perhaps explaining the exclusion of such a key issue- if the government is not looking to provide any military assistance, they may not consider it a NATO issue). However, one might have expected a push for a real round of ‘worst case scenario’ planning in the upcoming summit.

The terror threat is also notable by its exclusion. Where terrorism is noted, it is under the heading of ‘tackling new threats’. This does not seem to adequately reflect the tighter restrictions recently introduced in airport security or the raising of the terror level in the UK. It wouldn't be ridiculous to have assumed it would be more prominent in the agenda.   

The second is the language used when talking about Russian involvement in Ukraine.  '6 months after Russia illegally violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of her neighbor Ukraine, we must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression.' This relates to Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier in the year. It is completely true, no matter how nice Putin’s arguments sound and no matter if the people in Crimea wanted to become part of Russia or not, it was illegal. Without allowing the people of Crimea to go through the correct process before Crimea was incorporated into Russia, it was a simple act of illegal Russian aggression.  

The government calls for the ‘pre-positioning of equipment and supplies’ and ‘an enhanced NATO Response Force’ to combat Russian aggression. Two very dangerous ideas- it seems as though the government want to push NATO into responding firmly and perhaps militarily to the situation in Ukraine.   There is also talk of investing in the defence capacity and the security of other nations such as Georgia or Middle East states. It is likely the mention of Georgia is a reference to Russian aggression in Ukraine and recent history regarding Russia-Georgia relations.

The Middle East likely refers to Iraq and Afghanistan rather than Syria and Gaza. Yet there is no clarification and these more complex issues may also be addressed by the government at the summit.  

Under the heading ‘tackling other threats’ the government notes that (despite savage military cutbacks) the UK is one of only four nations to meet the 2% of GDP defence spending target. It appears the UK will be pushing other NATO members to increase defense spending and to devote at least a fifth of their defence spending on equipment and research.   Talks will be more wide ranging than this five point document suggests, but is interesting to note the definite language used and the fact certain issues are omitted. The document will be a useful tool in measuring British success at these talks, but is also provides interesting insight into what the British government thinks NATO can and can’t change.