NATO leaders meeting for alliance’s 75th anniversary as Ukraine looms large

WASHINGTON: NATO leaders are preparing to gather in Washington for a high-stakes summit that comes at a pivotal moment in the Transatlantic Alliance's efforts to bolster Ukraine's counter-offensive against Russia's ongoing invasion. The three-day summit will run from July 9-11, and will include the heads of state and government from all 32 member countries in addition to the leaders of the alliance's Indo-Pacific Partners -- Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will represent Trkiye at the summit. Looming large over this week's discussions will be maintaining the alliance's support for Ukraine with the future of critical American assistance unclear ahead of November's presidential election. Emphasizing the dominant role that Ukraine will play in the conversations, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that ensuring continued support from the alliance's members is "our most urgent task" during the looming gathering. He said he expects that leaders " will agree a substantial package for Ukraine" during the meeting. In a potential effort to prevent disruptions in military assistance that may result from ex-President Donald Trump's potential re-election in November, Stoltenberg said the alliance will formally "take over the coordination and provision of most international security assistance," including by standing up a command center led by a three-star general and several hundred military personnel at a NATO headquarters in Germany. Additional "logistical nodes" will be established in member states along NATO's eastern flank. It is unclear what nations will host those facilities, but Stoltenberg also said that the alliance will roll out a financial pledge for Ukraine in addition to more bilateral security agreements and pledges to expedite military aid. Taken together, the new commitments "constitute a bridge to NATO membership and a very strong package for Ukraine at the summit," he said. Building out allies' defense capabilities is also expected to be a subject that will dominate discussions, including a pledge to build on efforts to strengthen defense industry cooperation and production, and the announcement of a new Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system base in Poland. In all, 23 of the alliance's 32 members have met the alliance's pledge for states to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense, according to NATO's statistics. That marks a nearly four-fold increase since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2021. That is in addition to the alliance's expansion to include two new members -- Finland and Sweden -- since the Kremlin embarked on the war, further demonstrating the outsized role that the war in Ukraine will have during this week's summit. Biden to seek boost in domestic standing after disastrous debate performance US President Joe Biden has much at stake as he hosts the gathering of world leaders amid growing calls for him to decline the Democratic presidential nomination after botching a debate against Trump two weeks ago. The poor showing has only added to concerns over his mental acuity, and the ability of a man who would be 86 at the end of a second term to hold America's highest office. So abysmal was his performance that Democratic calls for Biden to step aside have grown steadily to now include sitting members of Congress, key donors and long-time strategists, not to mention American voters. Biden will seek to shore up his standing with his fellow Democrats by seeking to consistently portray himself as a leader who can withstand the burdens of office by simultaneously hosting the leaders of 32 close allies for critical talks. The US president's NATO events will conclude with an increasingly solo rare press conference. The White House declined to say how many questions Biden will take during the high-stakes interaction with the media, saying instead that "we're still working out" the number. "He's looking forward to it, and he will be taking your questions," spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. Sour ce: Anadolu Agency