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On the eve of the NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting, which will take place in Brussels, 26-27 June, NATO’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, briefed international media that the meeting will continue modernizing the alliance’s defence posture. “To ensure our deterrence and defence remains effective, we need to keep investing in our security. Today, we are releasing for the first time, figures for 2019 defence spending. The real increase for 2019 is 3.9% across European Allies and Canada. We now have five consecutive years of growth in defence spending,” he stated.

Detailed information indicates that more Allies are reaching the goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defence. At present, only seven of the 29 NATO members spend more than this. The Alliance expects this number to increase to eight in 2019, up from three in 2014. “Allies are stepping up with more forces for NATO missions and operations. This is impressive progress. And a sign of commitment. So NATO is on the right track. But we must keep up the positive momentum,” he emphasised.

NATO Defence Ministers including Acting US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, who will participate for the first time, will meet this week and address Russia's continuing violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russia has until 2 August to verify destruction of its SSC-8 missiles. “Time is running out!” Stoltenberg warned. NATO has tried to engage with Russia regarding its new missile system for years – including in the NATO-Russia Council – and has called on Moscow to take a responsible path and comply with the INF Treaty. However, there is no indication that Russia intends to do so: in fact, it continues to develop and field these missiles.

Stoltenberg pointed out that on 26 June “we will decide on NATO's next steps, in the event Russia does not comply. Our response will be defensive, measured and coordinated. We will not mirror what Russia does. We do not intend to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe. We do not want a new arms race.

The Defence Ministers will also approve NATO's first-ever space policy, to create a framework for how NATO should deal with the opportunities and challenges of space, since satellites can be jammed, hacked or weaponised and anti-satellite weapons could cripple communications. “So it is important that we are vigilant and resilient – also in space,” Stoltenberg observed.

Afghanistan will also be an important item on the Ministers’ agenda. While the security situation remains serious, NATO sees a unique opportunity for peace. In addition, NATO will host a meeting of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS. “The Coalition has made remarkable progress, retaking all the territory once held by ISIS terrorists. Now we must ensure that they do not come back,” the Secretary-General concluded.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg briefed journalists on 25 June on the agenda for the Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Brussels, 26-27 June. (Photo: NATO)

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