Opening of the NATO summit in Vilnius amid protests and criticism
VILNIUS, July 12 (IANS) NATO leaders have gathered here for a two-day summit that seeks to address the “most pressing challenges” facing the alliance amid mounting protests and criticism.
Strengthening defense and overcoming differences over the Ukraine war is at the top of the summit’s agenda. The new China News Agency (Xinhua) stated that the alliance aims to adopt three regional defense plans supported by 300,000 soldiers on high alert.
NATO also wants its member states to agree on a “more ambitious” defense investment pledge to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product annually on defence. After “nine consecutive years of increased defense spending” since 2014, only 11 of the 31 coalition members have reached or exceeded that target.
On Wednesday, the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council will take place in the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. NATO members remain divided on how to put Ukraine on the path to membership.
Prior to the summit, anti-NATO protests erupted in several European countries, while politicians and experts criticized the expansion of the alliance and its repercussions.
Noting that the summit will witness “calls for further escalation” of the Ukrainian war, the “Stop the War” coalition organized a day of protests across Britain on Saturday to demand peace. And in Paris, a rally against the military alliance drew hundreds of people, many calling for France to quit NATO.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova predicted that the summit would be a “colorful spectacle in the worst traditions of Western manipulation,” according to the RIA news agency.
“NATO is not a defensive alliance. By providing military aid to Ukraine,” Sevim Dagdelin, a member of the German Left Party, told Xinhua, accusing NATO of waging a proxy war against Russia.