13 July 2018

The NATO summit, Brussels, 2018- concrete results, despite the show

Cristian Eremia

The 2018 NATO summit in Brussels will remain in history as a challenging summit against the trans-Atlantic cohesion. That is because it was an extremely tense event, marked by edginess and unseen political confrontations for the main western European allies, due to the trenchant and intransigent unilateral approach made by the US president, regarding the insufficient defence financing coming from the Europeans allies. Despite the speculations, the Alliance was really close to a declension of the trans-Atlantic’s relation and mutual trust between the western European allies and the US.

Image source: Mediafax

As we were expecting, president Trump came to Brussels with one main objective: to unconditionally and immediately convince the European allies to increase the defence funding, for a “fair distribution” of the financial tasks by supporting the defence by NATO’s European states members. The American President’s concern for this issue was already know by the Europeans.

Obviously, the European allies reconfirmed that they will respect the commitment regarding the defence spending increasing to 2% of GDB, according the 2014 commitments from Newport, Wales (“The Defence Investment Pledge”). The American president could not be convinced by the Europeans arguments, as he considers that the defence spending augmentation represents a major problem for the US, and accordingly, should be solved before 2024 (established deadline at the summit mentioned above). So the summit’s agenda was modified to make possible a confidential debate of this subject, in an allied inner circle. 

There were no public clarifications regarding the American president’s purposes in this context, but as his previous assumptions show, he actually received what he wanted. Later, he came up with the idea that, after reaching the 2% from GDB, the allies should consider a new target of 4%, considered optimum by the American leader, but untaken into consideration by the Europeans allies. But the dangerous moment was lagging behind, so president Trump underlined at the end that NATO represents “a highly precisely machine” whose power he trusts in.  

Even more important is that the summit’s results document -The final Pledge of the 2018 Summit in Brussels (1) - which includes the adopted decisions and the political and military directions for NATO’s development and future activity, is a strong document which offers continuity in the Alliance’s approaches among the ones in Warsaw, from 2016. The document is similar with the documents from the previous summits. So let’s make a first interpretation of the main results of this summit. 


The “350 degree “approach of the security issues remains constant

NATO reconfirms the trans-Atlantic solidarity and the allied unity, which is “stronger as never”, regarding the accomplishment of the fundamental responsibilities for defending the population and the allied territories against any threat, coming from any direction. The international security environment proves to be more and more complex, unpredictable and challenging, with hybrid threats on a large spectrum, with false propaganda and “malicious” disinformation. The Alliance wants to permanently adapt itself, by taking the most adequate collective measures for consolidating the defence and discouragement posture, through a fair division of tasks and responsibilities. 

The reviews regarding Russia’s strategic attitude are extremely clear. Russia is aggressive, is using military force and breaks international and European’s security system rules to approach its foreign political objectives, disputes the European and global security’s architecture, and makes coordinated actions in order to modify the international order, to undermine the euro-Atlantic security space and the Alliance’s space. At the same time, Russia destabilizes Ukraine’s East part, makes intense actions of militarization for Kaliningrad and the Black Sea, as well as challenging actions at NATO’s borders territories, or even repeated violations of the aerial allied space. The allied response addressed to Russia will certainly not mean threatening it (“NATO is not looking for confrontation”), but will look for the adequate measures according to the new Moscow’s political and military realities:

-The suspension of all the military or civil cooperation activities between NATO and Russia. 

-The manifestation of having a political dialogue to increase the mutual transparency (periodical, concentrated and substantial dialogue with a Russia which is ready to commit itself mutually”), including avoiding any bad interpretations with unintentional or accidental escalation of any confrontations. 

-Showing support for territorial and sovereignty integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldavian Republic.

-The consolidation of an advanced presence of NATO in the East part.


NATO directly demanded Russia to withdraw its illegal stationed forces from Ukraine, Georgia and the Moldavian Republic. Also, they demanded Russia to stop any political, financial or military support or intervention for the separatists groups in Donbas, and also to deploy Minsk’s Conventions. 

Regarding the relation with Russia, NATO will not make any compromise which could affect the Alliance’s principles or Europe’s and North America’s security. Balancing and normalizing the relations will only be possible if Russia will clearly prove that understands how to behave in the international spirit order, by respecting the international assumed commitments.  


Consolidating NATO’s discouragement and collective defence posture

The Final Pledge shows that the defence and discouragement posture must continue, according to the assumed decisions from Wales (2014) and Warsaw (2016) summits. The ambition level established is that NATO must have a large variety of necessary capabilities in order to be able to “answer any threat, wherever may come, eventually in multiple direction and various regions”. The Alliance will specially be careful at:

-Assuring a quick decisional process which allows a political and military reaction, which fits the Alliance;

-Reforming and optimizing the informational area (intelligence), strategic acknowledge and anticipated planning;

-Increasing the reaction level, raising force’s operational level and adjusting the force’s strategic reinforcement capacity during the operations, a great attention being given to the assembled operations;

-Developing an “entire spectrum of capabilities and forces”, trained, prepared, inter-operable and easy to dispose;

-The constant exercises of NATO’s capability to freely operate and to quick strengthen with forces any ally, without accepting any coercion from any potential enemy, regarding freedom of movement of the allied forces on the terrestrial, aerial or maritime dimension, in any part the of the Alliance’s territories;

Also, it is reconfirmed that NATO still remains a “Nuclear Alliance”, and the strategic forces of the Alliance, especially the US’s ones, continues to be “the supreme guarantee of the ally’s security”. The discouragement posture on the nuclear dimension will be founded, also, on the nuclear weaponry of the US, disposed in Europe. Completing the nuclear army’s role will also be realized by NATO’s defence capability against ballistic rackets (NATO BMD). This capability will be assured by volunteered national contributions, especially by the US’s Phased Adaptive Approach of Anti-racket Defence from Romania, Turkey, Spain and Poland.

Regarding the military plans, there will be taken important decisions for the Alliance, including from Romania’s perspective, considering the exposure level to military foreign threats, being an allied state on the Alliance’s east flank. 

It was decided the launch of the “NATO’s initiative to increase the operational and answer level”, so that the allies can offer highly operational forces to the Alliance, for different military operations.  The allies will have to additionally give NATO, in 30 days or even in shortly time, 30 major combat navy unities, 30 heavy or easy maneuver battalions and 30 fight aerial escadrilles (a formula that they call it now: “The four 30’s”).

There were important decisions taken regarding the military mobility augmentation in Alliance’s territories, especially Europe, in order to minimize reaction’s time and displacement of the forces, but also to quickly enter in NATO’s forces operations, displaced with this aim;

-It was adopted the “Plan to train SACEUR’s responsibility area”, for whose implementation the Alliance asks the member states (implicitly Romania) “maximum priority” at a national level. The demands refer to amercing the legislation and the national procedures specifics in passing through borders, to the realization of the necessary critic infrastructures, to modernizing the transport routes, or to increasing the trans-border aerial mobility;

-The established deadline to improve the terrestrial, naval and aerial military mobility is 2024, being recommended, to the member states, a governmental approach to develop the civil and military agencies cooperation development, with responsibilities in this area;

-By the end of 2018 will be identified the main and alternative routes necessary to military allied transport;

-By the end of 2019 it will made a special channel for NATO, which will include the unique national contact points, for optimizing the coordination process regarding border crossings and route transport realization on member states territories;


NATO’s command Adapting Structure  

In order to improve the mobility and the force’s leadership in military operations, as well as the efficient management of any security threat, no matter the direction where it comes, the Alliance decided the adaptation and the reinforcement of the Command Structure of NATO. 

The Assembled Force Commission, displaced in Norfolk (US), whose main mission was defending trans-Atlantic communicational line;

The Assembled Commission for Support, displace in Ulm (Germany), with specific mission to assure force’s freedom of movement to and from Europe, respective for logistical support with military materials, necessary for the Alliance’s operations;


 The advanced adapted presence in the Black Sea region. Romania’s contributions

The final pledge underlines that the adapted advanced presence development in Black Sea’s region is a process that is developing according with the previous established plans. In Romania was built the multinational brigade, which offers a proper background for training the ally’s terrestrial forces. The Brigade is in an operational process, and has the objective of contributing to Alliance’s defence and discouragement consolidation. It was confirmed that, although implementations of increasing the maritime and aerial presence on NATO on the Black Sear were made, it will be necessary “supplementary efforts”, coming from NATO. Considering NATO’s special interest in the allied contributions at the command and control system from the Forces Structures, NATO “considered Romania’s offer to develop on its territory a command and control capacity, at an army forces level”. 

The Cyber space

NATO will continue its resilience measures to respond to the threats coming from the cyber space, generated by state and non-state actors. It was decided to continue the support for consolidating the cyber defence for the member states, by totally implementing the Cyber Defence Pledge. Also, it was decided the realization of “Cyber Operations Centre” in Belgium, to assure the allied coordinated actions in this area, including operational dimension on cyber space. 

The Alliance wants to continue the fight against terrorism

NATO will remain committed to support the efforts of the allied nations, to assure the security and their resilience (responsibilities that are definitely on nation’s side), by assuring inter-allied cooperation, including with taking actions to support with informational analyses, training and reaction actions, capabilities, operations and partnerships development to prevent and combat terrorism. The anti-terrorism fight will be a part of the “Alliance’s omnidirectional approach” in defence and planning stability. They decided the implementation of the Pledge of Actions in this area, adopted at NATO’s summit from 2017, and it actualization by the end of this year, so that they can adjust the necessary capabilities in fighting terrorism. They will take measures regarding the prohibition of chemical, bacteriological, radiological, nuclear (CRBN) or any other type of advanced technologies by terrorism groups. 


(1) Brussels Summit Declaration, issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, 11-12 July 2018,