Stoltenberg says Nato faces ‘serious security challenges’ and needs to step up co-operation

Zelenskiy comes to Washington summit seeking security guarantees for Ukraine, weapons, finances and political support

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and US secretary of state Antony Blinken in Washington, DC, during the 2024 Nato summit. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP

The 75th Nato summit opened in Washington on Tuesday with an ominous backdrop to the anniversary celebrations. The opening day was expected to revolve around the address by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at an evening function at the Reagan Institute, and after arriving in the city he gave a synopsis of his message to Nato allies over the three-day summit.

“We are fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine, including weapons and finances, political support. We are fighting for the needed decisive actions of America and Europe: something that will strengthen our soldiers. We are doing and will always do everything to make the Russian terror lose. And it is not only our country that needs it – everyone needs it, literally every partner, all nations.”

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg opened the summit as the death toll from the latest Russian missile attack on Ukraine rose to at least 41. That latest atrocity, along with the significant timing of a joint Belarus-China military exercise taking place just miles from the Polish – and de facto Nato border – underlined what Mr Stoltenberg defined as a period when “the world is changing”.

“We face serious security challenges and need to be able to step up our co-operation,” he said, before stressing again the importance of continuing financial commitment in the face of the continuing challenge to get all 32 member states to meet the pledge to raise spending on defence to at least 2 per cent of GDP.


“We made the pledge 10 years ago and then three allies spent 2 per cent of GDP on defence. This year 23 allies will spend 2 per cent or more,” he said.

Mr Stoltenberg said Nato was “stepping up our co-operation with Ukraine and taking over responsibility”, and noted that a new command centre in Germany would increase Ukraine’s ability to produce weapons and ammunition, adding that the Ukrainians also had expertise to teach Nato allies in that they had “combat experience and ingenuity”.

Welcoming the summit delegates, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the ironclad commitment made by the original Nato countries 75 years ago had established the organisation as the strongest defence alliance in the world.

“One of the reasons it is so important that we celebrate this anniversary as well as prepare the alliance for the way forward is because of what this actually means to all the countries who are members of Nato. And it really boils down to this. After two world wars countries came together determined that we would not see another global conflagration. And one of the ways they did that was by coming together in a defensive alliance: Nato. And the secret of Nato’s success has been the commitment that those 12 countries made to each other and that now 32 countries make, and that an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Ukraine has been waiting since 2008 for the Nato allies to follow through on a commitment to add it as a member. Mr Zelenskiy will use this gathering to further pressure the allies to do more to help his country to strengthen its air defences, and to emphasise the threat the Putin regime presents to Europe.

“Russian terrorists must be held accountable for this,” he posted on X after the Russian missile strikes on Monday.

“Mere concern does not stop terror. Condolences are not a weapon. We need to shoot down Russian missiles. Russian combat aircraft must be destroyed where they are based. Strong steps must be taken to eliminate any security deficit. The world has the necessary strength to do this. Our partners are capable of making it happen. Decisions are needed as soon as possible.”

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times