NATO Defence Ministers wrapped up two days of meetings in Brussels on Thursday (12 October 2023), addressing the Alliance’s defence plans and operations, and meeting with their Israeli counterpart.
General view of the meeting
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant briefed his NATO counterparts by videoconference on the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Condemning Hamas’ terrorist attacks, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said: “Israel has the right to defend itself and as the conflict unfolds, the protection of civilians is essential”. He added that “no nation or organisation hostile to Israel should seek to take advantage of the situation, or to escalate the conflict.”
On the Western Balkans, Mr Stoltenberg said that NATO has deployed hundreds of extra troops to Kosovo to ensure KFOR has the forces it needs to fulfil its UN mandate impartially. He called on Belgrade and Pristina to “behave responsibly, refrain from destabilising actions, and re-engage in the EU-facilitated dialogue”. He added that in Bosnia, NATO continues to support the EU-led operation Althea, which plays a key role for regional stability. On Iraq, NATO’s mission is evolving to provide more support to the Iraqi security forces.
On deterrence and defence, Allies discussed the next steps in operationalising NATO’s new defence plans, including by assigning forces, developing new capabilities, and adjusting command and control. Mr Stoltenberg also noted that NATO will start its long-planned nuclear exercise “Steadfast Noon” next week. The exercise will send “a clear message that NATO will protect and defend all Allies,” the Secretary General said.
Ministers also addressed damage to critical undersea infrastructure in the Baltic Sea. Allies expressed strong solidarity with Estonia and Finland as they work to establish the facts. Secretary General Stoltenberg said NATO would have a “united and determined response” if proven the incident was a deliberate attack.
Yesterday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with NATO Allies and partners in the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Allies assured President Zelenskyy that they would sustain and step up military aid to Kyiv as it braces for another wartime winter. In the first NATO-Ukraine Council at ministerial level, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov updated Allies on the situation on the battlefield and Ukraine’s most urgent needs.