2018 NATO summit: A critical time for European defence
2018 NATO summit: A critical time for European defence - Briefing
Author: Elena Lazarou
Date of publication: July 2018

On 11 and 12 July 2018 the NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Brussels for the 28th NATO summit. The summit comes at a time of tension in transatlantic relations, but also of continuing threats and challenges posed to the alliance. Against this background, leaders will focus on strengthening defence and deterrence, modernising the alliance and enhancing relations with the EU. Burden-sharing among allies is set to be one of the most controversial items on the agenda. In 2018 only eight out of twenty nine NATO members are estimated to be reaching the 2 % of gross domestic product (GDP) defence spending target.

The Brussels summit aims to push forward the agenda, decisions and actions agreed upon at previous summits, notably in Wales (2014) and Warsaw (2016). Yet there are fears that the insistence of US President Donald Trump that the focus be placed on burden sharing and demands that the NATO allies spend more on defence, might lead to the side-lining of other items on the agenda. The situation is aggravated by the current climate in transatlantic relations, which has deteriorated since the most recent G7 summit in Canada.

The summit in Brussels will also seek to secure progress on EU-NATO cooperation, aiming to produce a second joint statement, following that agreed upon in Warsaw in 2016. After two years of increased EU action to build up strategic autonomy in defence through initiatives such as PESCO and the European Defence Fund, cooperation with NATO is critical when it comes to taking European defence forward.