As the world passes the grim milestone of 500 days since Putin’s full-scale, illegal invasion of Ukraine, NATO leaders will gather in Lithuania to put the alliance on the right path to face down the threats of the future.

  • NATO Summit in Lithuania this week will focus on supporting Ukraine and preparing the alliance to take on the threats of the future
  • New NATO contributions and defence industry funding will cement the UK’s position as the leading European NATO ally
  • Comes as new UK Defence Command Paper due to set out plans to make our Armed Forces more lethal and deployable

As the world passes the grim milestone of 500 days since Putin’s full-scale, illegal invasion of Ukraine, NATO leaders will gather in Lithuania today (Tuesday) to put the alliance on the right path to face down the threats of the future.

Since Putin’s invasion, NATO has demonstrated its overwhelming strength and unity. Countries have increased their defence spending, Sweden and Finland have both applied to become members (with Finland subsequently joining) and allies have provided unprecedented levels of support to Ukraine.

At this week’s summit the Prime Minister will call on fellow leaders to build on this momentum and ensure NATO is learning crucial lessons from Russia’s actions and tactics in Ukraine.

Putin’s war is a watershed moment in Europe’s history. As well as causing untold devastation for millions of people in Ukraine and across the world, this multi-domain war has shifted our understanding how our adversaries approach conflict in the modern age.

NATO is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence and of Euro-Atlantic Security. For it to remain so, all members need to ensure we are constantly evolving and equipping our alliance to take on the threats of the future – changing our approach in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The Integrated Review Refresh published in March highlighted the acute threat posed by Russia bringing large-scale, high intensity warfare back to our home region, with implications for the UK and NATO’s approach to deterrence and defence.

NATO has responded to this increased threat in a number of ways over the last year, including through the adoption of NATO 2022 Strategic Concept and NATO Force Model. The Strategic Concept will guide NATO’s approach to the challenges and opportunities ahead while the NATO Force Model will provide the capability behind the approach – providing the Supreme Allied Commander Europe with the forces he needs.

The UK has committed almost all of our Armed Forces and military capabilities to NATO under the new NATO Force Model. We contribute to every single NATO mission and we are one of the biggest troop contributors to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence on the Eastern flank.

At today’s NATO Summit the Prime Minister will say allies need to go further – starting with every country finally spending a minimum of 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. The aspiration to reach 2 per cent was originally set out almost two decades ago, and the UK is one of the few countries to have delivered on it every year. In 2022, only 9 out of 30 NATO allies spent at least 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. This is projected to rise to two thirds of allies by 2024 thanks to campaigning by the UK and others willing to shoulder their fare share.

The Prime Minister will argue that meeting this 2 per cent commitment – which must be a floor not a ceiling – will be crucial to NATO’s ongoing ability to deter and defend against the kind of tactics Putin has used in Ukraine. He will specifically call for allies to channel efforts into ensuring our Armed Forces can respond more rapidly, we are ready to operate across every domain and our defence industries are prepared to dramatically scale-up production in times of crisis.

The Prime Minister said:

When thousands of Russian troops crossed the border in February last year, it marked a grim new chapter in Europe and NATO’s history.

In the 500 days that have elapsed since we have witnessed the most terrible crimes and human tragedies in Ukraine. But we have also seen the NATO alliance come together like never before in support of Ukraine and with firm determination that Russia cannot succeed.

That is work we need to continue this week. We cannot let the fog of war obscure the clear lessons our alliance must learn if we are going to outpace and outmanoeuvre those who seek to do us harm.

That is why the UK is investing record amounts in defence, to make our Armed Forces more lethal and more deployable, and to ready our defence industry ready for the challenges ahead. And that’s something we need to see across NATO – starting with meeting the 2 per cent commitment.

The importance of allies properly investing in defence is clear in NATO’s domestic defence industries, where Putin’s war in Ukraine has exposed weaknesses in our industrial capacity. NATO nations have stepped up to provide millions of rounds of ammunition and game-changing equipment to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. But this has risked leaving our own forces short.

In response to this concern, the Prime Minister has announced more than £5 billion of extra funding for UK defence over the last year, some of which will go towards replenishing our ammunition stockpiles.

Today the Prime Minister will confirm an eight-fold increase in the UK’s production capacity of 155mm artillery ammunition. Most NATO armies use this as standard, and a new £190 million BAE Systems contract – possible thanks to our defence spending uplift – will lead to the production of vastly more artillery shells for use by the UK and other allied forces.

This investment will make us safer and will create more than 100 jobs at BAE Systems’ sites in the North of England and South Wales – boosting their existing 1,200-strong UK munitions workforce

Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive at BAE Systems, said:

We’re incredibly proud of our role in delivering equipment to protect our armed forces and as the UK Ministry of Defence’s long-term strategic partner for munitions supply, we’re actively mobilising our operations in support of our NATO allies.

This multi-million pound investment will enable us to significantly ramp up production and sustain vital sovereign capability to deliver cutting-edge munitions, whilst creating and sustaining highly-skilled jobs across the UK.

Alongside this UK domestic uplift, the Prime Minister will push for further joint NATO efforts to increase our shared capacity to produce everything from missiles to ammunition – upping our investment and removing barriers to industrial cooperation between allies. These efforts will give our Armed Forces the equipment they need to prepare for any eventuality.

The Ministry of Defence will shortly publish a new Command Paper, setting out the measures the UK is taking to improve the lethality and deployability of our own Armed Forces as well as our contribution to NATO.

This includes establishing a new Defence ‘Global Response Force’ which will dramatically increase our ability to physically respond to a crisis at very short notice, either because we are already present or by deploying more rapidly.

The Global Response Force will complement the NATO Force Model by bringing together the UK’s deployed and high-readiness forces under a single command. It will be able to draw on capabilities from every domain – land, sea, air, cyber and space – to ensure we can respond quickly and fully everywhere in the world. It is a direct response to the lesson learned early on in the war in Ukraine about the need to respond rapidly to the changing threat picture.

The Global Response Force builds on lessons learned from recent crises, including in Sudan, where it would have streamlined and coordinated our response. The Ministry of Defence’s operation in Sudan involved a rapid evacuation of more than 2,200 people airlifted on military aircraft – more than the next three countries combined. We achieved this by bringing together the expertise and capabilities of personnel from across the Ministry of Defence located all over the world, supported by other parts of government and coordination with other international partners. 

Just as we make our Armed Forces more deployable, we must ensure they are equipped in the advanced technologies of the future. The Prime Minister will point out to allies NATO’s ability to lead in these domains, given the alliance’s combined size and expertise.

Earlier this year the European HQ of NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the Northern Atlantic (DIANA) opened in London. DIANA aims to harness dual-use commercial technologies for defence and security purposes, with a focus on future technologies like AI. At this week’s summit the Prime Minister will encourage allies to continue to invest in these capabilities and to engage in global discussions about their development and use – including at the first international summit on AI to be hosted in the UK this autumn.

Published 11 July 2023