U.S. President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to attend an important NATO summit later this week, said in an interview prior to his departure that Ukraine is not ready for membership in the alliance, asserting that the war with Russia must end before an invitation can be issued.
In an interview broadcast on CNN on July 9 — the same day Biden departed for Europe on a three-country tour — the president said that, although it was still too early to bring Ukraine into the alliance, the United States and its allies in NATO would continue to provide Kyiv the weapons it needs to defend itself against the unprovoked Russian invasion.
Biden spoke ahead of his weeklong trip, which begins in London, then moves on to Vilnius, Lithuania, for the NATO summit on July 11-12, before going to Finland to meet with leaders of NATO’s newest member.
“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden told CNN.
“For example, if you did that, then, you know — and I mean what I say — we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”
Biden said he has spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy often about the NATO situation and reassured him of Washington’s support as Ukraine defends itself against Russian aggression.
“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden said.
In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News from Kyiv on July 9, Zelenskiy said again he would “never” cede any territory to Russia, including the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.
He didn’t dispute a Washington Post report that Ukrainian officials told CIA Director William Burns on a recent trip to Kyiv that the aim of the current counteroffensive was to approach Crimea and then force Russian President Vladimir Putin into negotiations.
“Well…it’s very likely that Putin will be forced to seek dialogue with the civilized world, unlike how it was before the full-scale invasion, because he will be weakened.”
Later on July 9, Biden held a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which they discussed Sweden’s NATO bid, the Turkish presidency said.
Erdogan told Biden that Stockholm had taken steps in the right direction for Ankara to ratify its bid, referring to an anti-terrorism law, but that these steps weren’t useful, as Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) supporters continued to hold demonstrations in Sweden.
The two also discussed the delivery of F-16 fighter jets and Ukraine’s status in NATO on their call and will meet in person at the NATO summit in Vilnius, the office said.
Separately, Zelenskiy, who was in Poland for meetings with Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, posted on Twitter that he had a “brief but very substantive” discussion with Duda about the upcoming NATO summit.
“We agreed to work together to get the best possible result for Ukraine,” Zelenskiy wrote.
On July 7, Zelenskiy said he expected to see unity among NATO member states and that he wanted to see concrete steps on Ukraine’s bid for eventual membership./RFE/RL