Biden reaffirmed the promise of Ukrainian NATO membership but said that the country isn’t ready yet. At the same time, he did promise to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression.
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was firm in a speech Monday when he said that he wanted Biden to give a clear answer; Will Ukraine become a member of NATO or not? Zelensky wanted to get a road map in place, but American President Joe Biden was reluctant to give a yes at this point, he told at a press conference.
“The fact is they (Ukraine) still have to clean up corruption. The fact is they have to meet other criteria to get into the Action Plan… It remains to be seen. In the meantime, we will do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression. And it will not just depend on me whether or not we conclude that — that Ukraine can become part of NATO; it will depend on the Alliance and how they vote,” said Biden before adding that it might not be easy to convince all NATO members.
“They have more to do. But that does not justify… Russia taking aggressive action, either in the Donbas or on the sea, or in any part of Ukraine. And we’re going to put Ukraine in a position to be able to maintain its physical security,” said Biden.
Zelensky wants a roadmap
Biden’s words weren’t what Zelensky wanted to hear. The Ukrainian President has been pressuring more and more in recent months for NATO membership since the Russian military build-up in Spring confirmed Ukraine’s need for NATO membership.
Biden’s statement falls in line with what NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said Monday after a NATO summit, which we also wrote about here on Ukrainenu.
“We reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP) as an integral part of the process; we reaffirm all elements of that decision, as well as subsequent decisions, including that each partner will be judged on its own merits. We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own future and foreign policy course free from outside interference,” NATO wrote in a statement calling for more reforms in Ukraine.
Zelensky responded that he, on one side, is happy that NATO confirmed the decision of the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit, but that he is also disappointed not to see any progress towards Ukrainian NATO membership.
“Every day, we prove that we are ready to be in the alliance more than most of the countries of the European Union,” he said, according to Reuters, “… Everyone should understand and be more flexible, understand that we are at war, that we are defending democracy in Europe and defending our country, and therefore you cannot just talk to us with phrases about reforms.”
Meeting between Biden and Putin
The Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden are scheduled to meet for a one-on-one meeting this Wednesday in Geneva. The Washington Post expects the topic of Ukraine and the Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian borders to be on top of the agenda with strict demands from Biden about a Russian withdrawal.
What will, if anything, come out of the meeting is still unclear, but Zelensky has said that he is concerned that Biden is meeting Putin in person before himself but he is also afraid that nothing important will come out of the meeting between the two leaders.
“The No. 1 concern is that there will be no specifics (at the meeting),” said Zelensky according to AP, “And the situation in Ukraine depends on this very, very much … Everyone is afraid of solutions to the most difficult issues, final solutions… The likelihood of an escalation remains.”
According to the UN, the war in Donbas, which broke out in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution, has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Zelensky also said to AP that Russia is planning offensives against Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa but did not provide proof.
Zelensky, who was elected President in 2019 with the promise of stopping the war in Donbas, has also said that he is setting up a meeting with Putin to negotiate peace. Russia and Ukraine haven’t been able to set a date for the meeting yet.