The latest episode of The President’s Inbox is live. This week Jim sat down with Ivo H. Daalder, the chief executive at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Ivo previously served as the US ambassador to NATO under President Barack Obama.
Ivo H. Daalder, the chief executive of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the decisions reached at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Jim and Ivo discussed the decisions made at the summit and the implications for the alliance’s future.
Here are three highlights from their conversation:
1.) The summit displayed NATO’s unity. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped his opposition to Sweden joining the alliance. All of the NATO members reaffirmed their commitment to spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Perhaps most important, the summit made clear that it is a matter of when, not if, Ukraine joins the alliance. All of this is bad news for Russia. As Ivo put it, “it’s hard to see how [the summit] was anything but a success.”
2.) Ukraine won’t be joining NATO while the war rages. On the eve of the summit, someone leaked the draft of the Vilnius Summit Communiqué. It didn’t offer a timetable for Ukraine to join the alliance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his disappointment over the decision: “It’s unprecedented and absurd.” Zelensky struck a more upbeat note after the summit ended because NATO members pledged to provide Ukraine with more weapons. Ivo noted that NATO won’t extend an invitation to Ukraine to join as long as the country is at war with Russia because of Article 5 of the alliance’s charter. It calls on member states to defend each other. Ivo argued that “you wouldn’t want to bring…a country into the alliance if you weren’t at that point also…willing to defend the territory of that member.” At the same time, he acknowledged that an invitation tied to the formal end of the war would encourage Russia to keep fighting.
3.) NATO is now leaning into its original mission as a military alliance meant to deter and defend against aggression. The summit ratified detailed plans for how the alliance will defend itself against an attack. This is the first time since the end of the cold war that NATO has put together defense plans rather than less detailed contingency plans. As Ivo put it, NATO is regaining “its muscle memory.”
If you want to read more of Ivo’s work, he recently wrote a piece for Politico titled “How to Ensure a Strong, Independent Ukraine.” It analyzes how a timeline could be put into place for Ukraine to ascend to NATO and what factors NATO members should consider before offering an invitation and a timeline.
Jonathan Masters wrote a backgrounder for CFR.org that breaks down the basics of the transatlantic security alliance.