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NATO wants its member states to agree on "a more ambitious" defense investment pledge to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their GDP annually on defense.
On Tuesday, leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) gathered in Vilnius for a two-day summit that seeks to address "the most pressing challenges" facing the alliance amid protests and growing criticisms.
Strengthening defense and bridging differences on the Ukraine conflict are on top of the summit's agenda. The alliance aims to adopt three regional defense plans backed by 300,000 troops on high readiness.
NATO also wants its member states to agree on "a more ambitious" defense investment pledge to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) annually on defense. After "nine consecutive years of increased defense spending" since 2014, only 11 of the alliance's 31 members have reached or exceeded this target.
On Wednesday, the inaugural meeting of the new NATO-Ukraine Council will be held with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in attendance. NATO members are still divided on how to put Ukraine on a path to membership.
The tweet reads, "Today, July 11, 2023, the NATO summit begins in Vilnius, Lithuania. The war in Ukraine is among the issues under discussion. Zelensky has already shown his anger at the lack of clarity on the timing of his country's accession to the Alliance."
Ahead of the summit, protests against NATO have been held in several European countries, while politicians and experts criticized the alliance's expansion and its impacts.
Pointing out that the summit will see "calls for further escalation" of the Ukraine conflict, the Stop the War coalition organized a day of protests across Britain on Saturday, calling for peace. In Paris, a march against the military alliance drew hundreds of people, with many calling for France to withdraw from NATO.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova predicted the summit would be "a colorful spectacle in the worst traditions of Western manipulation."
"NATO is not a defense alliance; it is an alliance that wages illegal wars," Sevim Dagdelen, a member of the German Left Party, said, accusing NATO of fighting a proxy war against Russia by supplying military aid to Ukraine.