NATO Summit Kicks Off in Washington Today Amidst White House Tensions

July 2024
By Ilaria Donatio

The three-day summit – from today 9th July to Thursday 11th – that will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the creation of NATO opens in Washington and will also see the final stage of the process of appointing former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as head of the Alliance in place of Jens Stoltenberg. The summit will also be an opportunity to welcome Sweden, which joined the Alliance last March, and to observe the international debut of the new British Prime Minister, Labour’s Keir Starmer.

Also attending was the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who said yesterday at a press conference with the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk: ‘I would like to hear from our partners a stronger response to the blow that Russia has once again dealt to our people, our land, our children’. The reference is to yesterday’s missile attack by Russia on a children’s hospital in Kiev, in which, according to initial estimates, 38 people were killed, including three children.

Ukraine at the centre of the summit
The war in Ukraine is set to dominate the summit. Despite Kiev’s insistence and the enthusiasm of some of its eastern European neighbors, Ukraine’s NATO membership is off the table.

Diplomats in Washington are aware that Trump might choose to cut military support to Kiev and fear a scenario in which the White House in the hands of the Republican leader might tacitly allow Russia to consolidate its control over militarily occupied territories. This is why both the Biden Administration and some governments in Europe are desperately trying to secure ‘Trump-proof’ support for Ukraine in the short and medium term.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin lets it be known through Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov that it intends to monitor the summit ‘with the utmost attention’.

Europe and the US
The potential return of former President Donald Trump is haunting many of the US’s European allies and is looming over the summit as doubts grow over President Joe Biden’s chances of re-election: during his first term, Trump has repeatedly voiced criticism of NATO and in the recent debate in Atlanta he did not make it clear whether – should he be re-elected – he would withdraw the US from the Alliance.

The anti-Trump plans
European diplomats are already preparing contingency plans for a future Trump administration. Many doubt that the US will withdraw from NATO, but fear that the tycoon will reduce US commitments to the Alliance, undermining transatlantic unity. Added to these fears are those related to the fragility of Biden, whose candidacy for the White House appears increasingly in the balance.

Sergey Radchenko, a historian at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies commented on social media: “This election is doing more to discredit American democracy than Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping could have hoped. I am concerned about the image projected to the outside world. It is not an image of leadership. It is an image of terminal decline.”

Borrell goes to Nato summit, represents von der Leyen
High Representative Josep Borrell and European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Washington to attend the NATO summit. The High Representative will also attend the summit on behalf of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The summit is an opportunity to strengthen the EU-NATO strategic partnership in the context of the current Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

France, Macron may renounce NATO summit
For his part, according to the newspaper Le Figaro, President Macron might renounce the NATO summit: his allies insist that he should not leave the Elysée Palace. At the same time, negotiations on the formation of the new executive are underway. The fear expressed by the Macronists is that the left might try to impose a name for the leadership of the government, also taking advantage of the President’s absence: ‘The gauche will agree on the name of a prime minister, and we need to organize ourselves: but if the President leaves for the United States, nothing will happen with us,’ explained a minister of the outgoing executive.

Meloni, I expect unity and support for Kiev from NATO summit
“My expectation is that NATO on its 75th anniversary, and at a very special historical moment, sends a great message of unity and adaptability to a changing world,” said Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni from Washington, shortly before the NATO summit opened. ‘Italy brings the necessary attention to the Alliance’s southern front, which is included in the summit conclusions at the moment,’ Meloni added, explaining that ‘support for Ukraine is also clearly expected’.