Events in Ukraine and northern Iraq dramatically increased the significance of NATO's September summit. It marked a turning point for the Alliance, as combat operations in Afghanistan drew to a close and members renewed their commitment to collective defence.

NATO leaders have decided on enhancements to military capabilities, reaffirmed the transatlantic bond and agreed on cooperative steps both among allies and with partner nations. A principal goal of the summit held in Wales on 4–5 September was to reassure members – and remind Russia – about the mutual defence pledge that lies at the heart of the Alliance. Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, declared that it was 'a special summit at a particular time'.

Until a few months ago, the meeting had been expected to be largely administrative and to follow a script decided a year ago. The Alliance would mark the end of its combat operations in Afghanistan and agree measures to improve cooperation both among allies and with partners, so as to maintain NATO's ability to respond to future crises. The slogan was in place: NATO would move from being deployed to being prepared.

However, events in Ukraine and, later, northern Iraq dramatically increased the gathering's significance. Any hopes that leaders might have had of a post-Afghanistan strategic holiday for NATO suddenly evaporated. With the Alliance's eastern and southern flanks in turmoil, many member governments felt that a fundamental challenge was being posed to the order and principles that underpinned their security. The negotiating process on the summit communiqué became dynamic and fast-moving.

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