President Joe Biden said on Sunday that Ukraine is not “ready” to be a part of the Nato alliance, a pronouncement that will likely chill some concerns raised by some members of the alliance ahead of a major summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The US president made the comments at the beginning of an interview with Fareed Zakaria of CNN, and is likely seeking to blunt the enthusiasm of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, who has insisted that his country should be admitted to the alliance as it passes the 500th day of a Russian assault into its heartland.
Mr Zelensky has been relentless throughout the course of the war in rallying Western support for his cause, including his seeking increasingly powerful shipments of weapons and war vehicles as his military battles and pushes back a larger but underperforming Russian force.
In recent days, that has meant a vow by Mr Biden to expand the transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine’s military – a move that some in the US have called a bridge too far.
“I don’t think it’s ready for membership in Nato, but here’s the deal: I spent a great deal of time trying to hold Nato together,” said Mr Biden, adding that he believed Russia’s goal was to “break Nato” as an alliance.
His comments are likely also aimed at soothing tensions with Nato members Hungary and Turkey, who are not supportive of Ukraine’s bid for membership, ahead of the Vilnius summit. Other US politicians have offered less than friendly responses to those hesitations, such as senator Jim Risch, a Republican from Indiana, who floated the idea of kicking both countries out of the alliance over their opposition.
It could cause consternation for Rishi Sunak – like the cluster bombs decision, this puts the US at odds with the UK’s position, which currently is for support of fast-tracked alliance membership for Ukraine. Advocates of Ukraine joining the alliance argue that the county has made progress on issues of corruption, which are alleged to widely plague Ukrainian politics and business.
“We have seen Ukraine evolve, and evolve quickly,” British foreign secretary James Cleverly told the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Wednesday.
“Many of the requirements of the Membership Action Plan are actually being delivered. The reform of their armed forces are happening whilst engaged in conflict and I think the UK’s position is that it would be very supportive if we moved on from the Membership Action Plan,” he continued.
Russia also remains adamantly opposed to Ukraine’s membership in the Western alliance, and the issue is seen as one of the driving factors of the expansion of hostilities last year.
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