Biden Says Ukraine Not Yet Ready For NATO Membership

Ahead of the NATO summit in Lithuania, the president said that Russia's war must end before the defence alliance can invite Kyiv to join.

President Joe Biden said that Kyiv is not yet ready to become a NATO member, stressing that Russia’s war in Ukraine must end before the alliance can invite the country to join.

In an interview released Sunday with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the president spoke about several foreign policy issues ahead of his weeklong trip to Lithuania for the 2023 NATO summit. Among those issues is Ukraine wanting to join the massive defence alliance as it continues to battle Russia.

“I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO,” Biden said of Ukraine, adding that holding the alliance together is “really critical” because he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s overarching goal has been to break up the group of 30 countries.

“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,” the president continued. “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 a war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”

In order to join NATO, every member of the defence alliance must agree that the country in question is ready to become part of the group. In 2008, NATO leaders said that Ukraine would eventually become a member, but did not create a road map for it despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Biden said he has spoken to Zelenskyy about NATO membership, and told the Ukrainian president that the U.S. would continue providing security and weaponry while the membership process plays out.

“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to get into NATO,” the president told Zakaria. He added that he refused Putin’s pre-war demand that the U.S. commit to not admitting Ukraine to NATO, citing the alliance’s “open-door policy.”

“But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratisation and some of those issues,” Biden said, stressing that there would need to be a ceasefire or peace agreement before the membership process can begin.

Saturday marked 500 days since Russia launched a deadly full-scale war against Ukraine, expecting to quickly capture the country but instead facing massive resistance from the small nation’s people armed and funded by powerful countries that include NATO members.

Last week, the White House announced that the U.S. will provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, a move met with divided reactions from Congress and will likely face scrutiny at the NATO summit, where over two-thirds of members have banned the weapon due to its track record for causing many civilian casualties.

Biden told Zakaria that it was a “difficult decision” to send cluster munitions upon the Defence Department’s recommendation, and that it took him “a while to be convinced to do it.” But the administration ultimately said that sending the bombs ― the same kind Russia has used on Ukrainian civilians ― was vital to help Ukraine sustain its counter-offensive.

“The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,” the president said, adding that the U.S. is sending modern cluster munitions with low dud rates. “They’re trying to get through those trenches and then stop those tanks from rolling. But it was not an easy decision.”


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