Ahead of the NATO summit in Lithuania, President Joe Biden stated that Ukraine is not yet prepared to become a member of NATO. He emphasized that the ongoing war with Russia must come to an end before the alliance can extend an invitation to Kyiv.
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, released on Sunday, the president discussed various foreign policy matters in anticipation of his weeklong trip to Lithuania for the 2023 NATO summit. One of the topics addressed was Ukraine’s desire to join the defense alliance while still grappling with Russia.
“I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO,” remarked Biden regarding Ukraine. He underscored the importance of maintaining unity within the alliance, highlighting that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal has been to divide the group of 30 countries.
Biden further explained, “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.” He emphasized the commitment of NATO members to defend every inch of territory considered NATO territory, even in the event of a war.
Therefore, if Ukraine were admitted during an ongoing conflict, it would effectively mean that all NATO members would be at war with Russia.
For a country to join NATO, unanimous agreement among all member states is necessary. In 2008, NATO leaders expressed the expectation that Ukraine would eventually become a member but did not establish a specific roadmap, despite appeals from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Biden disclosed that he has discussed NATO membership with President Zelenskyy and assured him that the United States would continue providing security assistance and weaponry during the membership process.
“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to get into NATO,” stated the president, highlighting the alliance’s “open-door policy.”
However, Biden emphasized that it is premature to call for a vote at present, as there are additional criteria to be met, including democratization and other related issues.
He stressed the necessity of a ceasefire or peace agreement before commencing the membership process.
The 500th day since Russia initiated a deadly full-scale war against Ukraine was observed on Saturday. Russia had anticipated a swift capture of the country but faced significant resistance from the Ukrainian people, who received support and resources from powerful nations, including NATO members.
Recently, the White House announced that the United States would provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, a decision that has garnered mixed reactions from Congress and is expected to be scrutinized at the NATO summit.
More than two-thirds of NATO members have banned cluster munitions due to their history of causing civilian casualties.
Biden acknowledged that the decision to send cluster munitions was difficult, as it took time to be convinced by the Defense Department’s recommendation.
However, the administration determined that providing these munitions, similar to those used by Russia against Ukrainian civilians, was crucial in supporting Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
“The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,” stated the president, noting that the United States is sending modern cluster munitions with low dud rates. He added, “They’re trying to get through those trenches and then stop those tanks from rolling. But it was not an easy decision.”