At a key moment for Euro-Atlantic security, Minister of Defence, François Bausch, took part in the North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting at Defence Minister level, which took place in Brussels on 14 and 15 February.
The first day was devoted to military support for Ukraine. To this end, at the invitation of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group brought together the 30 Allies and 24 Partner countries to discuss lethal and non-lethal support to Ukraine.
One week before the first anniversary of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the North Atlantic Council, in the presence of the Defence Ministers of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, met to take stock of the situation on the battlefield and NATO's non-lethal efforts in support of Ukraine. The defence ministers also discussed the Alliance's medium- and long-term relationship with Ukraine. The final item on the agenda was the strengthening of political and practical support to other partners, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova, directly affected by external threats and interference resulting from Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
In his speech, François Bausch gave an update on Luxembourg's military aid to Ukraine and Luxembourg's contributions to the three threatened countries: "Luxembourg will stand by Ukraine as long as necessary against the brutal Russian aggression. Our contributions to support Ukraine in exercising its right to self-defence amount to nearly €90 million. This represents 17% of our total annual defence expenditure. In addition, Luxembourg has provided €3.4 million in non-lethal assistance to Ukraine as part of NATO's Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP Ukraine). In view of Russia's hybrid campaigns against NATO partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova, Luxembourg is also contributing €1 million to tailored support programmes for each of these partners".
On 15 February, discussions in the NAC with the two "guest countries", Finland and Sweden, focused on the Alliance's deterrence and defence posture, ammunitions stockpiles, defence industry capabilities, critical infrastructure protection and defence investment commitments.
In the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine, NATO redefined the foundations of its deterrence and defence posture at the NATO Summit in Madrid in June 2022, based on its 360-degree approach on land, in the air, at sea, in cyber and in space in order to be able to meet all threats and challenges. Thus, the Defence Ministers endorsed the New Force Model, which includes pre-allocated forces for the defence of the Alliance. This will enable NATO to respond more quickly and with greater force to potential crises. This structure also provides for "forward defence" on the Alliance's eastern flank. In this context, François Bausch announced: "Luxembourg has already deployed 6 soldiers in Lithuania as part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP). We will soon deploy some 25 soldiers in Romania to support the Enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA). Given the deteriorating security environment, Luxembourg fully supports NATO's adaptation efforts."
The Defence Ministers also approved the new Political Guidance 2023, which sets the level of ambition, provides guidance for defence planning and launches the new four-year capability planning cycle. This political guidance will ensure the sustainability of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance's defence capabilities.
Defence ministers then discussed the urgency of addressing ammunition shortages and increasing industrial capacity. Allied military aid to Ukraine is depleting ammunition stocks. To maintain current levels of support and the credibility of the Alliance's deterrence and defence posture, close cooperation with industry is needed to accelerate weapons production and replenish Allied stocks. At the meeting, Defence Ministers discussed, among other things, the possibility of multinational and multiannual procurement, for example through the Luxembourg-based NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA).
With regard to the Allies' commitment to defence investment, François Bausch explained Luxembourg's particular situation by saying: "Unity is strength; division makes us weak. We must respect the specifics of each Ally. We fully agree that we need to increase the defence spending of the Allies in order to respond to the deteriorating security situation. Since 2014, Luxembourg has more than doubled its defence expenditure and we are committed to doubling it again by 2028. However, reaching 2% is not realistic for Luxembourg, given our national specificities. In any case, NATO's collective defence effort since the Wales Summit has been a positive story. We are determined to maintain this effort and to strengthen our Alliance".
Finally, NATO Defence Ministers discussed strengthening the protection of critical submarine infrastructure through increased surveillance and enhanced deterrence.
AFSC and APSS
Following the NAC meetings, Minister Bausch signed two letters of intent concerning NATO projects.
The first project concerns cooperation in the development and commissioning of an initial element of the Alliance's Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) capability. The aim is to acquire airborne surveillance and control platforms to replace the current fleet of E3-A AWACS in NATO service. Luxembourg has participated in the AWACS programme for 40 years and the fleet flies the Luxembourg flag. In May 2022, Luxembourg already announced its intention to provide around €5 million between 2023 and 2025 to accelerate the development of this capability. 11 Allies have signed the AFSC letter of intent.
The second project is Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space (APSS). Luxembourg contributed 16.5 million to this NATO-initiated project to enable the development of this capability, which will improve situational awareness on the ground, particularly in times of conflict, by creating a virtual constellation of national and commercial space assets. Without Luxembourg's contribution, the launch of this project would not have been possible. 18 nations have signed the corresponding Letter of Intent.
Press release by the Directorate of Defence