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Jul 1, 2024, 5:11pm EDT
security

NATO to speed up procurement of key weapons at Washington summit

A missile launches from a Romanian Patriot air defense system during a NATO exercise in June.
Michael Linennen/NATO
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NATO allies are expected to commit to speeding up the procurement of key weapons at a summit in Washington DC next week, as the alliance seeks to address critical gaps in its military readiness in the face of Russian aggression, three European officials told Semafor.

A five-year plan put forward by NATO’s three Baltic states would see the alliance redouble efforts to acquire long range missiles and other weapons systems that have proven crucial on the battlefield in Ukraine and could be used in the event of a large-scale conflict.

As Russia has rebuilt its military much faster than expected, “our proposal is to focus in the next five years on air defense, long range fires, and ammunition,” Tuuli Duneton, Undersecretary for Defense Policy at the Estonian Ministry of Defense, told Semafor.

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The plan has won the support of key member states, with a US State Department official telling Semafor that Washington “supports the intent of the proposal and is working with allies on how to incorporate it in summit deliverables.”

The proposal is drawn from the Allied Capability Delivery Commitment, put forward by the Baltic states to reduce key equipment gaps in NATO’s regional defense plans.

A Latvian spokesperson told Semafor that the proposal’s ideas will be “embedded” in the Defense Industrial Pledge that allies are expected to sign at the summit.

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The new plan reflects a desire to invest in scarce weapons systems that would prove vital in a large-scale conflict. NATO members currently have only 5% of the air defense systems needed to protect its eastern flank in such a war, the Financial Times reported.

Although most NATO members scrapped their long-range capabilities such as ballistic missiles at the end of the Cold War, long-range firepower has provided invaluable for Ukraine’s defense. Military experts have for years called on NATO members to invest more in such weapons.

Meanwhile, the West has struggled to ramp up the production of artillery ammunition to the level needed to sustain Ukraine’s war effort, even if it has boosted its output dramatically.

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NATO members have been “surprisingly positive” about the new proposal given the extra costs it will incur, a European official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the alliance’s internal deliberations, told Semafor. “Delivering these [weapons] faster than originally planned would require additional resources to be invested,” the official said.

“Most importantly,” the plan had been agreed upon in principle by NATO’s defense ministers at a June meeting in Brussels, the official said. An internal document approved at the meeting stressed the need for a review mechanism to assess whether NATO will actually be on track to achieve these new defense goals, the official added.

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