Earlier this month 300 MPs from 29 NATO member countries, together with observers and delegates from partner countries descended on Bucharest, Romania looking to address the most pressing issues facing the Alliance in the years to come.
Present security risks and long term strategic commitments topped the agenda of 63rd Annual Session, a consultative inter parliamentary body and one of the most important defense gatherings of the year. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is designed to bring together legislators from all the member states of the Atlantic Alliance, providing a link between NATO and the parliaments of its member states.
Even before the resolutions were drafted, expectations ran high that complicated matters such the tense relation with Russia, terrorism and cyber warfare will be answered. Here are the 4 main conclusions of this year’s session:
- NATO restated its condemnation of Russia for the illegal annexation of Crimea while recognizing the Black Sea as a key region for transatlantic security. The Alliance has been unequivocal in its support for Ukraine and reaffirms backing Georgia and Ukraine in their bid to become NATO member states.
This comes amid already heightened tensions in the region. Last month, Ukraine was the setting of a multinational military exercise, where almost 2000 soldiers from NATO and allied countries trained together with local troops. The exercise came just days before Russia launched its own military maneuvers that have put the region on edge.
- Addressing MPs huddled in the Palace of Parliament, the seat of Romania’s legislative body, NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged member states to earmark 2 percent of GDP for defense. This has longtime been a bone of contention between US and its NATO allies, with many unable to reach the 2% threshold, prompting the US President to ask that member countries “pay their share”.
- Stoltenberg announced that 10 NATO member countries will contribute with troops to a Romania-based multinational brigade located in Craiova, that will serve as a defensive unit for the region.
Russia Today, a television network funded by the Russian government questioned the move, calling it a way of “keeping close tabs on the Russian presence in the Black Sea.” The Kremlin’s response was quick to follow, warning that it could send Iskander missiles to its base in Kaliningrad as a response to NATO building up its military presence in Poland and Romania.
The Romanian based battle group is just the latest of its kind after NATO, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, set up an additional four multinational brigades in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
- In Bucharest, the Alliance also addressed the issues of cyber warfare and the need to increase investment in research and development in order to keep NATO’s technological edge. A report made public during the meeting showed that NATO is not prepared to deal with the rapid advancements in the field of science and technology achieved by Russia and China and their desire to “weaponize information and conduct well-funded disinformation campaigns.”
As Russia doubled its R&D budget and China is prepared to spend more than the US on research and development by 2020, NATO adopted a resolution calling for the creation of the special unit designed to counter such threats and keep the Alliance’s technological advantage.