Brussels (Brussels Morning) The NATO member defence and foreign ministers met on Tuesday to prepare for the upcoming 14 June summit, setting the framework for the meeting of NATO heads of state, which US President Joe Biden will attend in his first official trip abroad as President.
The ministers discussed key challenges lying ahead for the alliance. These included withdrawal from Afghanistan, growing tensions with Belarus, and the alliance’s plans in face of growing Russian assertiveness vis a vis Ukraine, as evidenced in Moscow’s stationing of troops alongside the border between the two countries.
After Biden announced that US troops will make a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by 11 September, other NATO troops are expected to leave by that date at the latest. Allies most dependent on US airlift capacities will have to coordinate and plan their withdrawal together with other members of the alliance.
The UK and Germany have already announced plans to accelerate the relocation of Afghan staff who have worked with their respective forces as interpreters or in other combat service support capacities. DW reports the two countries are offering their staff residential status in order to secure them against potential reprisals from the Taliban once NATO makes a full withdrawal.
Putin and Lukashenko
Last week, the alliance also issued a joint condemnation of the forced landing of a commercial flight and subsequent arrest of an independent journalist carried out by Belarus. Even though the statement was reportedly toned down at Turkish insistence, many of the 30 NATO members plan to introduce additional sanctions against the Belarus dictator, Alexander Lukashenko.
Growing tensions with Moscow placed Russia high on the priority list for the upcoming summit, especially after the Kremlin’s announcement on Monday that it would be deploying an additional 20 military units to its western border with Ukraine.
“Our message remains clear: We are prepared for dialogue, and we have made proposals, but the key to a better relationship lies clearly with Moscow”, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, declared ahead of the Tuesday meeting.