NATO Defence Ministers discuss further support for Ukraine, a new command in Finland and ‘ongoing adaption’ of nuclear weapons

A review of the meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence 

Brussels, 13-14 June 2024

This third meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in 2024 (the previous two took place in February and April) focused on the forthcoming summit in Washington, D.C., on July 9–11. Many of the topics discussed were also covered by the NATO Foreign Ministers in Prague at the end of May (see NATO Watch Briefing 115). The two key agenda items were: 

  • enhancing support to Ukraine; and
  • strengthening deterrence and defence, including a regular meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group and addressing Russia’s “campaign of hostile activities against NATO allies”. 

The key takeaways from the meeting were as follows:

  • Ministers approved a plan for NATO to lead the coordination of security assistance and training to Ukraine, as part of a new “comprehensive package” for Ukraine to be agreed at the Washington Summit. This will give Europe greater responsibility for aiding Ukraine amid uncertainty over the upcoming US presidential election.
  • Ministers endorsed the first-ever NATO-Ukraine Innovation Cooperation Roadmap, and a NATO-Ukraine Joint Analysis, Training and Education Centre (JATEC) in Poland is likely to be agreed at the Washington Summit.
  • Ministers agreed on response options for Russia’s alleged hostile actions against NATO member states, including increased intelligence exchange, enhanced protection of critical infrastructure, including undersea and in cyber space, and further restrictions on Russian intelligence operatives.
  • NATO claims to have 500,000 troops at high readiness across all domains, significantly more than the 300,000 goal set at the 2022 Madrid Summit. 
  • Over the next 5 years NATO member states across Europe and Canada plan to acquire thousands of air defence and artillery systems, 850 modern combat aircraft and “a lot of other high-end capabilities”. 
  • A new Defence Industrial Pledge was discussed, which will scale up military production and solidify long-term cooperation with industry. This is expected to be agreed at the Washington Summit.
  • Finland will host a NATO land command and there will be a land force presence in the country to direct land warfare operations in northern Europe and Scandinavia. Detailed planning on the exact location of the command and how many NATO troops would be placed in Finland is still ongoing.
  • No details were given, but the NATO Secretary General subsequently clouded the issue by implying more nuclear weapons might be taken out of storage and placed on standby – something that was subsequently denied by NATO officials.
  • Existing initiatives to train aircrews and to collaborate with civil aviation authorities on air space usage were expanded with new members joining the two ad hoc groups. The Netherlands joined the NATO Flight Training Europe (NFTE) initiative, bringing the total number of participants to 13, and Belgium and Spain joined a cross-border airspace cooperation initiative, bringing the total number of participants to 16.

Read more in the attached pdf.

+++Please note that this briefing was updated on 28 June 2024 in the light of new information regarding the NATO Secretary General's interview with the Telegraph newspaper on NATO's nuclear weapons policy+++