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After Contentious Start, NATO Summit Focuses On Afghanistan, Black Sea Security

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrives for the second day of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 12.

BRUSSELS -- NATO leaders are hoping for a less confrontational tone on the final day of their summit in Brussels, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump accused Germany of being "captive" to Russia for energy and demanded that alliance members double their commitments on defense spending.

Key sessions on July 12 are focusing on the war in Afghanistan, as well as security in the Black Sea region following increasingly aggressive actions by Russia -- including the war in eastern Ukraine between the Kyiv government's forces and Russia-backed separatists.

The leaders of two so-called NATO partner states in the Black Sea region, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, have been invited to attend those sessions.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said talks would "address regional challenges" in the Black Sea as well as "defense reforms and NATO's continuing support."

Margvalashvili told RFE/RL in March that Georgia's main objective at the summit is to be invited to become a full member of NATO – saying "we want to be there," deserve to be there, and "have done everything to be there."

But Georgian Foreign Secretary Tengiz Pkhaladze last week downplayed the prospects of receiving an invitation at the Brussels summit, saying Georgia's main objective was "to draw the attention of the alliance" toward Georgia and "the security challenges it is facing."

"This will be the first time in the history of NATO-Georgia relations that a meeting will be held at the highest level with the participation of the heads of state," Pkhaladze said.

Pkhaladze said Margvalashvili's discussion points during his July 12 talks with NATO leaders would include Georgia's defense capabilities, its security challenges, and the future of NATO-Georgia cooperation.

At a 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, alliance leaders agreed that Georgia and Ukraine would become NATO members in the future. Although the membership prospects for both countries have been reconfirmed at every summit since then, no firm date has been set.

Ukraine's president met on July 12 with Stoltenberg and spoke with NATO leaders at the decision-making North Atlantic Council.

Resolute Support

The final session of the July 12 summit is a gathering of leaders from countries involved in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Those talks include Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the leaders of NATO partner states that are not members of the alliance but are contributing forces to Resolute Support.

Stoltenberg says he expects NATO leaders to "agree to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020," and to express full support for Ghani's "bold peace initiative" and government reforms.

Meanwhile, some officials at the summit say Trump has raised questions about his commitment to NATO with his repeated criticisms of U.S. allies.

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The U.S. president continued his criticism on July 12 in early morning tweets from Brussels, saying "The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!"

Trump has previously called on other NATO states to meet a commitment to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

But on July 11, he stunned his European counterparts by calling on them to double their commitments on military spending to 4 percent of GDP.

"All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!" Trump repeated in a tweet early on July 12.

Despite the discord, the summit on its first day produced a strong statement criticizing Russia and calling for "fair burden-sharing."

"We will continue to stand together and act together, on the basis of solidarity, shared purpose, and fair burden-sharing," the statement said.

NATO reaffirmed its rejection of Russia's forcible annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Stoltenberg said Russia's move was "one of the main reasons why NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the Cold War" and has increased its presence in Poland, the Baltics, and Black Sea states that are NATO partners.

NATO is sending Russia "a very clear signal that anything similar to what happened in Crimea cannot happen against any NATO country," Stoltenberg said.

The NATO statement also extended an invitation to Macedonia to join after it implements its settlement of a long-running name dispute with NATO member Greece.

Putin-Trump Summit

NATO leaders in Brussels have indicated concerns about a meeting in Helsinki planned for July 16 between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump shocked some by saying on July 10 that the NATO summit might be more difficult than his talks with Putin.

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But British Prime Minister Theresa May has welcomed the Trump-Putin talks, saying they should be used to lower the risk of conflict between NATO and Russia.

According to May's spokesman, the British leader offered an upbeat assessment of the Trump-Putin meetings during a dinner for NATO leaders late on July 11.

"Open channels of communication between the U.S. and Russia are key to managing the risks of confrontation," May was quoted as saying.

May also highlighted what she called Moscow's "malign activity," including Kremlin-linked cyberattacks on the West and the use of a Soviet-era nerve agent against a former Russian spy on British soil, the spokesman said.