NATO leaders have drummed up more military and financial support for Kyiv, but the war in Gaza was absent from the bloc’s agenda.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. President Joe Biden walk near German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, France's President Emmanuel Macron, and Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis as they attend NATO's 75th anniversary summit in Washington, U.S.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, US President Joe Biden and other European leaders attend NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington, US [Yves Herman/Reuters]

Led by US President Joe Biden, NATO unveiled a series of new pledges to Ukraine at its three-day summit in Washington, DC, this week, marking the 75th anniversary of the military alliance.

“Autocrats want to overturn the global order” and “terrorist groups” continue to plot “evil schemes”, while Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to wipe “Ukraine off the map”, Biden said on Wednesday.

“But make no mistake, Ukraine can and will stop Putin, especially with our full, collective support,” the US leader added, as NATO leaders drummed up more military and financial support for the war-torn European country, while committing to Kyiv’s future in the bloc.

Here’s what Ukraine got from the summit, more than two years after Russia launched a full-fledged invasion of its smaller neighbour — and the parts of the world that NATO chose to ignore.

What did NATO promise Ukraine at the summit?

  • The bloc said it will be outfitting Ukraine with several additional strategic air defence systems, including four additional Patriot batteries and a SAMP/T defence system.
  • NATO leaders have also pledged at least $43bn in military aid to Ukraine.
  • The alliance’s members also announced other individual and joint steps to boost Ukraine’s security.
  • The United States, Netherlands and Denmark announced that the first NATO-provided F-16 fighter jets would be in the hands of Ukrainian military pilots by this summer. The US also said it will be deploying longer-range missiles in Germany in 2026, responding to the bloc’s fears of Russia’s growing threat to Europe.
  • Kyiv has also long vied for a seat in the transatlantic alliance. While differences among member states persist, the summit’s declaration said that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO” and that the country is on an “irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership”.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasised, however, that Ukraine would not join immediately, but when the war with Russia is over.

Has Gaza figured at the NATO summit?

The war in Gaza has been largely ignored at the summit in Washington, DC.

There was no mention of the conflict in the 38-point joint communique NATO released on Wednesday, save for how “conflict, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East” directly affects NATO security. Biden and most European leaders also remained silent on Gaza.

But some leaders did speak up.

Yosuf Alabarda, analyst and retired Turkish colonel, said Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reminded Western leaders in his speech on Tuesday that NATO values were being trampled upon in Gaza, values that NATO leaders said were being violated by Russia and China.

“Erdogan clearly said in his speech: What happened to your Western values in Gaza?” Alabarda told Al Jazeera.

“In the eyes of the whole world, there is a massacre going on in Gaza,” he said, adding that NATO has largely ignored this, instead choosing to focus on Ukraine.

Spain, too, had piercing words for its counterparts in the alliance, and called on the bloc to show the same “unity and consistency” for Gaza as they have demonstrated for Ukraine.

“We cannot be accused of applying double standards that would weaken our support for Ukraine. On the contrary, we demand the same unity and consistency for Gaza as we do in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told fellow NATO heads of state at an Atlantic Council session, according to Spanish press reports based on sources from the prime minister’s office.

“If we’re telling our people that we support Ukraine because we defend international law, we must do the same for Gaza. If we demand respect for international law in Ukraine, we must demand it in Gaza, as well,” Sanchez pressed.

Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from the summit on Wednesday, said the lack of discussion about Gaza has been “conspicuous”, particularly with the US’s announcement that day that it was resuming shipments of 500-pound (227kg) bombs to Israel.

Did NATO signal any other shifts in policy?

The 32-country bloc does not appear to have veered too far from its earlier policies during this year’s summit, throwing continued full support behind Ukraine and portraying Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as the biggest threats to global security.

But some shifts were apparent.

China: The alliance stepped up its rhetoric against China, accusing it of being a “decisive enabler of Russia’s war against Ukraine” through its “large-scale support for Russia’s defence industrial base”. The bloc also levelled accusations at Iran and North Korea of fuelling the war by providing direct military support to Russia.

Georgia: Relations between the country and the West have deteriorated in the last couple of years, with NATO warning in May that Tbilisi’s controversial new foreign agents law was a step away from Georgia’s ambitions to integrate with Europe and join NATO. Since 2008, Georgia has been among a small set of countries that NATO has said will someday join the alliance — if they meet a series of requirements.

At the NATO summit this week, however, the declaration that leaders agreed to was silent on Georgia’s path towards membership in the alliance, even as it mentioned Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina — the other aspirants for membership.

Has the UK’s new government affected Ukraine support?

The summit has been the first opportunity for newly elected UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer to discuss his government’s foreign policy as well as bilateral relations with allied leaders.

On Ukraine, Starmer has pledged that his Labour Party government will continue the previous Conservative administration’s support to Kyiv.

According to Steven Seegel, a professor at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas in Austin, a Labour government may deepen these ties with Ukraine on the three fronts of military, finances, and humanitarian diplomacy.

“Starmer has had a positive effect with his high-profile visits to Ukraine … He met personally with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy on several occasions. I recall his trips to Irpin and Bucha in February 2023, to see Russian war crimes up front; these were the most significant,” Seegel told Al Jazeera.

Are Biden’s domestic challenges affecting NATO?

Biden’s political struggles, however, loom large on the bloc’s future.

Serious questions about Biden’s age and fitness for office have been raised domestically in recent days, following a debate performance against Republican contender and former President Donald Trump in which the incumbent president appeared lost and unable to communicate effectively.

Trump is leading Biden in polls in key swing states ahead of the November election. He has threatened to pull the US, a founding NATO member and its biggest funder, from the alliance and is staunchly against providing more aid to Ukraine.