NATO Summit 2023: Waiting for Ukraine’s Membership — and Zelensky’s Frustration — Final Day of Summit, Meeting with Biden

Vilnius, Lithuania

President Joe Biden Entering the second day of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Ukraine faces questions about its path to membership in the alliance. His Ukrainian counterpart Full view and divisions among NATO leaders on the thorn issue.

Ukraine is a dominant item on the summit’s agenda as the US president seeks to unite the bloc behind President Volodymyr Zelensky in the face of Russia’s invasion. While the summit’s final report removes a barrier to entry, the Ukrainian president will look for further signs of allies’ commitments.

While U.S. officials have been adamant that Ukraine will not join NATO emerging from the meeting, there are few concrete steps or timelines the group has offered to provide significant support to the war-torn nation.

Zelensky, who arrived in Lithuania on Tuesday, will attend the summit and meet one-on-one with Biden, a sign of unity that threatens to be overshadowed by a blistering statement he issued on his way to the meeting.

The Ukrainian president said he had “received signals that some words are being discussed without Ukraine,” stressing that “the words are about the invitation to NATO membership, not Ukraine’s membership.”

“It is unprecedented and absurd when no deadline is set for the invitation or Ukraine’s membership. At the same time vague words about ‘conditions’ are added to even inviting Ukraine. “Ukraine seems unwilling to invite to NATO or become a member of the alliance,” Zelensky said in a tweet, adding, “Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit.

The final report, released Tuesday, is unlikely to give Zelensky the answers he’s demanding.

Cocker Pempel/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Lithuanian President Kitanas Nowseda hold the Ukrainian flag from the front lines of the war with Russia, next to Olena Zelenska, on July 11, 2023, in Vilnius.

Given Kiev’s close ties to NATO countries, the allies agreed to drop one requirement for Ukrainian entry into the bloc — a membership action plan — but it did not provide a firm timeline for when Ukrainians would become official members.

NATO allies will invite Ukraine to join the military alliance “when conditions are met,” the group’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Tuesday.

The view it reflects Zelensky is a man who spends time with Wednesday.

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Biden has insisted that Ukraine is not ready to join NATO. CNN said in an exclusive interview last week Russia’s war in Ukraine must end before the coalition can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks.

Speaking to Stoltenberg after arriving at the meeting, Biden expressed his full support for Zelenskiy’s disappointment with the final language released by NATO on Tuesday.

“We agree with the language that we proposed, that you proposed, that the future of Ukraine could be joining NATO. We are looking for a continuous, united NATO,” Biden said in brief remarks with Stoltenberg on the summit floor.

While he was gracious at a news conference with Stoltenberg on Wednesday morning, Zelensky made his vision clear ahead of his meeting with Biden. Zelensky said the results of the summit were “good,” but added that it would be better to receive an invitation to join the alliance.

“We can say that the results of the summit are good, but they will be optimal if we receive an invitation,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky added that he was grateful to Biden and that he was “hopeful” that Ukraine would join NATO after the war.

“I believe that NATO needs us as much as we need NATO, and I believe that this is absolutely fair,” he said.

Tensions between Washington and Kiev spilled into public view when National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan fielded a tense question from a Ukrainian activist during an appearance at a NATO general forum on Wednesday morning. To Zelensky’s dismay later in the day. Sullivan defended the decision to keep Ukraine out of the alliance for now, and told the activist that “the American people deserve some kind of gratitude” as he praised the Ukrainian people for standing up to Russia’s aggression.

“The American people saw that they wanted to stand in solidarity with the brave and courageous people of Ukraine – to step up and try to deliver. And I think the American people deserve some kind of gratitude – from us, from the United States, from our government for their progress, from the rest of the world, as well as from every partner and partner. support it,” Sullivan said.

However, the US is expected to offer support to Ukraine in other ways on Wednesday.

Following the conclusion of NATO meetings, Biden and G7 leaders are set to make a “major announcement” with Zelensky on boosting Ukraine’s military capabilities, a US official said.

“The United States, along with G7 leaders, will announce our intent to help Ukraine build a military that can defend itself and deter future attack,” Amanda Slott, senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, told reporters on Wednesday.

Sloat said the announcement would start a process of bilateral negotiations with Kyiv.

There will be “a long-term investment in Ukraine’s future military”, “ensuring that Ukraine has a stable fighting force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring Russian aggression in the future, a strong and stable economy, and ensuring the assistance needed to move Ukraine forward” reforms to support the good governance needed to advance Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. agenda,” he said.

Sloat said the purpose of the declaration was to strengthen Ukraine’s deterrence and send a message to Russia.

“We believe that the declaration we are announcing today will ensure Ukraine’s future as a free, democratic and sovereign nation. It signals a joint long-term commitment to building a powerful defense and deterrence force for Ukraine, certainly for both stability and peace. “This multilateral declaration will send a significant signal to Russia that time is not on its side,” Sloat said.

While Biden is expected to offer “closer and longer-term support for Ukraine” during a meeting with Zelensky, lingering issues over Kyiv’s accession to NATO could strike a different tone to earlier congratulatory meetings between the two leaders. This year.

Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since the start of the war was to Washington just before Christmas, where he was hosted by Biden in the Oval Office before delivering a speech to Congress. A couple of months later, Biden made a surprise visit to Kiev to return the favor and announce a half-billion-dollar aid package. The dramatic scene was marked by the sound of air raid sirens as the two presidents walked past the golden-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Their last face-to-face meeting was at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan in May. It was only after the Russians captured Baghmut after months of heavy fighting that Zelensky took the opportunity to press world leaders for more help.

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The meeting will end a 15-year wait for answers on when Ukraine can join the bloc. NATO first welcomed Ukraine’s membership aspirations during a meeting in Bucharest, Romania in 2008, but little progress has been made and the timeline remains uncertain.

“Ukraine and many NATO allies are calling for a clear path, a road map, some kind of statement in Vilnius that will show what Ukraine needs to do to join the alliance. I think that’s very important for the alliance to be credible. Considering the stakes of the war … considering what the Ukrainians have endured. And if we leave Vilnius without a solid sense of what we need to do to bring Ukraine into the alliance, I worry about the credibility of the alliance,” said Chris Skaluba of the Atlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Biden and members of his administration remain committed to the coalition’s current “open door” posture.

However, NATO countries in Eastern Europe bordering Ukraine or Russia have made a strong push for a commitment to extend membership to Ukraine, including offering a firm timetable, which has created tension within the alliance heading into the summit.

As the leaders meet, experts are looking at whether more long-term security aid could be offered to Ukraine, including additional F-16 fighter jets and other long-term investments as a key signal to NATO’s long-standing Russia. Temporary support for Ukraine.

Sloat told reporters Wednesday that Biden and NATO leaders had “unanimously agreed” to send a “substantial” new aid package to Ukraine — but he declined to provide further details.

Later Wednesday, Biden delivered a foreign policy speech his aides described as a “major address,” reflecting the strength and power of the NATO alliance.

Biden will also discuss how “widespread support for Ukraine reflects the value of our alliances and partnerships, which he has revitalized since taking office.” Second term.

Biden will “underline how we have an opportunity in this moment to apply that same sense of unity and purpose and urgency to the climate crisis, emerging technologies, upholding the international rules of the road and other great challenges of our time. Expanding opportunities,” Slott said.

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