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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg meet in Rome to Discuss Ukraine, Defence Spending and Mediterranean Security

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Written by: Gaia Durante Mangoni

Edited by: Oliver Jacob Reschreiter

Supervised by: Riccardo Angelo Grassi

On 8 May 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, Italy. Their discussion mainly focused on what will be at the heart of the upcoming NATO Summit, which will take place in July in Washington, with the war in Ukraine leading the conversation (ANSA, 2024a). The Secretary General reiterated that sending boots on the ground to Ukraine is currently not an option for NATO, nor something that the Ukrainians have asked for (ANSA 2024b). Instead, what Ukrainians are in desperate need of is additional military aid, especially in light of the recent territorial advance by the Russian army in the northeastern region of Kharkiv (Dettmer, 2024).

The Secretary General has praised Italy’s role in supporting Ukraine, defining it as a “highly valued and key NATO ally” (ANSA, 2024a). More specifically, he thanked the Italian Prime Minister for providing an additional SAMP/T air defence system alongside France to Ukraine. This medium and long-range anti-missile and air defense system is crucial to intercept and destroy air threats (Domingo, 2024). This year, Italy will also be taking over the presidency of the G7, putting Rome on the frontline when navigating a critical moment for European security (ANSA, 2024b).

Yet, Stoltenberg’s mission also aimed at reminding Italy that it still needs to make some important steps to achieve all NATO commitments. The Secretary General took this opportunity to call on Italy to increase its defence spending. This year, only 18 of NATO’s 32 member countries are set to spend at least 2% of their respective GDP on defence each year, as per NATO requirements. As of 2023, only a limited number of European states, including those bordering Russia, were on track with the required spending, with Poland (reaching 3,9%) and Estonia (2,73%) leading this effort. Germany (1,57% in 2023) and France (1,90% in 2023) are expected to reach the spending floor in 2024, while Italy will not exceed 1,5% (NATO, 2023).

Stoltenberg explicitly linked the major blows that the Ukrainian forces are suffering today to this uneven commitment. He admitted that part of the reason why the Ukrainians are currently under-equipped is because of its allies’ delayed supplies and non-compliance with the 2% threshold (ANSA, 2024b). Ukrainian President Zelensky didn’t hesitate to recognise how Russia is taking advantage of Ukraine’s ammunition shortages which, in turn, derive from the lack of consistent and robust Western support (Dettmer, 2024). 

On her side, Meloni asked the Secretary General to increase the Alliance’s presence in the southern flank, the source of Italy’s main concerns. In fact, the Italian government is having to deal with record numbers of migrants arriving on Italy’s coasts due to the growing instability and insecurity in the Sahel region (Winfield, 2023). This is why the Prime Minister expressed her hopes for the Washington Summit to be an opportunity to take concrete steps in addressing the security threats originating from the south, as per the 360-degree approach to Euro Atlantic security established in NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept (ANSA, 2024b).

The two leaders concluded the meeting by discussing potential avenues to prevent further escalation on the battlefield. They agreed that while a political solution will bring the conflict to an end, peace can and should only be achieved once Ukraine’s military superiority is guaranteed; that would place Kyiv in a sufficiently strong negotiating position against Putin (ANSA, 2024a).


ANSA. (2024a, May 8). Stoltenberg all’ANSA: “Kiev non ha chiesto truppe Nato” [Stoltenberg to ANSA: “Kiev has not asked for NATO troops”] – Notizie – Agenzia ANSA.

ANSA. (2024b, May 8). Stoltenberg: “L’Italia e’ un alleato chiave, l’ho sottolineato a Meloni” [Stoltenberg: “Italy is a key ally, I highlighted it to Meloni”] – Mondo – Agenzia ANSA.

BBC News. (2024, February 15). How much do Nato members spend on defence? BBC News.

Dettmer, J. (2024, April 17). Ukraine is heading for defeat. POLITICO.

Domingo, J. (2024, May 8). Italy to Send Additional SAMP/T Air Defense System to Ukraine. The Defense Post.

NATO. (2023, July 7). Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2014-2023). NATO.

Winfield, N. (2023, September 15). Italian leader Giorgia Meloni vows to take “extraordinary measures” to deal with a migrant influx. AP News.