Vilnius, 30 May 2014 - NATO Allies must step up support for Ukraine, reassure neighbouring nations and counter Russian interference in the conflict afflicting the country’s eastern regions, the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said Friday. //
“This is a critical time for our continent. The situation in Ukraine is a security challenge which we must respond to,” Hugh Bayley told a news conference, as the Assembly began its three-day Spring Session in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Bayley said parliamentarians from NATO nations would emphasize their support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, reassure NATO partners Georgia and Moldova, and underline the Alliance’s commitment to collective defence.
The session in Vilnius, which is expected to draw some 360 delegates from NATO nations and associate and observer countries, will also focus on Afghanistan, as it moves from a combat to support role as international troops withdraw in 2014.
Bayley underlined that the drawdown should not serve as an excuse for NATO countries to cut defence spending even further, with only six member states close to the two percent of gross domestic product NATO deems necessary for military budgets.
In the presence of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the parliamentarians will debate preparations for NATO’s next summit in Wales in September, where Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the importance of the Alliance’s Article 5 on collective defence will be high on the agenda.
Bayley said the Assembly will present a document to Rasmussen on June 10 focused on ways to strengthen the transatlantic bond, and he unveiled a text laying out why NATO remains vital to international defence.
NATO's Parliamentary Assembly brings together members of national parliaments from the 28 Allied nations as well as partner countries, observers and organisations. It is an essential link between the Alliance and national parliaments - and therefore, to citizens in the Euro-Atlantic area.