Celebrating 75 Years of NATO: Belgium’s Integral Role in the Alliance

Lailuma Sadid
Flags' of Members of NATO at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 26, 2019.

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper),  NATO Secretary General Outlines Plans for Long-term Support to Ukraine and Addresses Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza, NATO Foreign Ministers Meet to Strengthen Support for Ukraine and Discuss Global Security.

NATO Foreign Ministers convened to discuss crucial issues facing the Alliance, including bolstering support for Ukraine and addressing global security challenges. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened the meeting by acknowledging the commitment of member nations, particularly highlighting the United States’ unwavering dedication to supporting Ukraine amidst ongoing tensions with Russia.

In a press conference, NATO Secretary General detailed plans to ensure sustained support for Ukraine amidst ongoing conflict with Russia, while also addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Stoltenberg emphasized the need for a robust and long-term framework for NATO’s support to Ukraine, moving away from short-term, voluntary offers towards more structured commitments. This framework, he explained, would encompass various forms of assistance including security aid, training, and financing. Stressing the importance of collaboration, Stoltenberg highlighted ongoing dialogue with Ukraine, framing economic support as an investment in collective security.

While final decisions on the specific format of support were not reached, Stoltenberg confirmed the initiation of planning processes within NATO. He emphasized the Alliance’s methodical approach, relying on military authorities to develop detailed proposals for consideration.

Shifting focus to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Stoltenberg expressed deep concern over the escalating violence and civilian casualties. He condemned the recent strike against aid workers and welcomed Israel’s commitment to investigate the incident. Recognizing the efforts of NATO Allies in facilitating ceasefire discussions, Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s role as a supportive entity, not directly involved in the conflict.

Regarding the urgency of support for Ukraine, Stoltenberg underscored the consequences of delays in decision-making, particularly in the provision of ammunition. He urged the United States to act swiftly, citing the critical need for support as Ukrainian forces face increasing challenges from Russian aggression.

Responding to concerns about NATO’s involvement in Ukraine, Stoltenberg reaffirmed the Alliance’s defensive stance, emphasizing its support for Ukraine’s right to self-defense under international law. He clarified that NATO’s enhanced framework would not change its fundamental approach but would improve coordination and transparency among Allies.

Addressing Hungarian concerns about NATO’s support to Ukraine, Stoltenberg expressed confidence in finding consensus and addressing issues through dialogue and planning processes.

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, emphasizing the importance of military strength in achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Russia. He emphasized the need for collective action and solidarity within the Alliance to address global security challenges effectively.

Stoltenberg also talked about GDP, and emphasized the importance of burden-sharing within NATO, noting significant progress since the pledge made in 2014 to allocate 2% of GDP towards defense spending. While two-thirds of NATO members now meet this target, there is a collective ambition to ensure all allies contribute their fair share, with 2% considered the minimum standard. This message will be reiterated as preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington intensify.

NATO is engaged with its Asia Pacific partners, recognizing the interconnected nature of security challenges across regions. Stoltenberg highlighted the involvement of countries such as North Korea, China, and Iran in supporting Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, underscoring the global implications of conflicts. Cooperation with Asia Pacific partners remains vital in addressing shared security concerns.

Additionally, NATO is commemorating its 75th anniversary, reflecting on its history of successful collaboration and adaptation. Events will take place both at NATO headquarters and at the Truman Hall, with further celebrations planned for the NATO Summit in Washington later this year. Stoltenberg expressed gratitude for the opportunity to host the summit, emphasizing the importance of continuing to evolve and uphold NATO’s status as the most successful alliance in history.

David Cameron, UK Foreign Minister at NATO HQ, emphasized:  NATO’s strength, unity, and significance are at their peak as it commemorates its 75th anniversary and welcomes Sweden as its 32nd member.

Addressing Russia’s ongoing illegal war against Ukraine, Cameron stressed the imperative to sustain support for Ukraine, now closer to NATO than ever. He urged NATO Allies to back British-led initiatives aimed at procuring NATO standard missiles and munitions for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Recognizing the 10-year milestone since Allies committed to allocating at least 2% of their GDP to defense spending at the NATO Summit in Wales, highlighted NATO’s progress since 2014. He called for increased defense spending among Allies, enhanced support for Ukraine, and heightened defense industrial production.

Cameron concluded by celebrating NATO’s unprecedented strength and importance on its 75th anniversary, particularly following Sweden’s recent accession to the alliance.

Seventy-five years ago, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was born, marking a historic moment of solidarity and collective defense among its founding members. From its inception with 12 nations to its current roster of 32 Allies, NATO has remained steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the security and stability of its members.

The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 3, 1949, by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United States, and the United Kingdom laid the foundation for what would become one of the most significant politico-military alliances in history.

Belgium, as a founding member and the host country of NATO’s headquarters in Evere, has played a pivotal role in the Alliance’s mission. With the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) located in Casteau near Mons, Belgium has been at the forefront of coordinating NATO’s military operations.

In the face of evolving security challenges, Belgium continues to contribute significantly to NATO’s core tasks of deterrence and defense, crisis prevention and management, and cooperative security. Notably, Belgium has been actively involved in efforts to bolster the Alliance’s eastern border in response to escalating tensions, particularly in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Belgium’s commitment extends beyond military operations; the nation is deeply engaged in promoting human security, supporting initiatives such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Additionally, Belgium prioritizes addressing the impact of armed conflict on children and is increasingly focusing on the critical issue of climate change within the NATO framework.

As NATO commemorates its 75th anniversary, Belgium joins in celebrating this milestone occasion. The Foreign Affairs Ministerial, taking place on April 3rd and 4th, will serve as a platform for reflection and reaffirmation of NATO’s core principles. The Royal Mint of Belgium has marked this anniversary with a commemorative coin, symbolizing the enduring partnership among NATO Allies.

Moreover, the raising of the NATO flag beneath the Cinquantenaire during the Ministerial sessions will be a poignant reminder of the Alliance’s shared values and unity in the face of global challenges. The anniversary ceremony at Alliance Headquarters on April 4th will underscore the continued relevance and importance of NATO in safeguarding the security and prosperity of its members.

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Lailuma Sadid is a former diplomat in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Embassy to the kingdom of Belgium, in charge of NATO. She attended the NATO Training courses and speakers for the events at NATO H-Q in Brussels, and also in Nederland, Germany, Estonia, and Azerbaijan. Sadid has is a former Political Reporter for Pajhwok News Agency, covering the London, Conference in 2006 and Lisbon summit in 2010.