Zelenskyy Holds Talks with NATO Leaders Despite Delay in Ukraine's Membership Timeline
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with NATO leaders in Vilnius on Wednesday, following their declaration that Ukraine's future lies within the alliance. However, the leaders refrained from providing a specific timeline for Ukraine's membership, causing disappointment for Zelenskyy. The meeting took place during the second day of the NATO summit and involved an inaugural session of the NATO-Ukraine Council, aimed at enhancing relations between Kyiv and the 31-member transatlantic military alliance.
During the summit, Zelenskyy also held a separate meeting with US President Joe Biden, where he sought additional arms and ammunition from the United States and other NATO nations to combat the ongoing war resulting from Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year.
Officials have indicated that the United States, Britain, France, and Germany are expected to offer long-term security support to Kyiv, including advanced weaponry, training, and other military aid. These assurances may be provided soon after the summit concludes. Furthermore, other countries are likely to join this framework by making their own bilateral commitments.
Zelenskyy expressed his disappointment at a rally in Vilnius on Tuesday, where he criticized NATO for not providing a timeline for Ukraine's membership, a concept he had previously deemed "absurd." Nevertheless, he struck a more conciliatory tone towards NATO allies in subsequent remarks.
"Our defense is of utmost priority, and I am grateful to our partners for their willingness to take new steps," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter. "More weapons for our warriors, more protection for the whole of Ukraine! We will bring new vital defense tools to Ukraine."
NATO has made it clear that Ukraine cannot become a member while the war with Russia persists. The leaders reiterated a 2008 declaration affirming Ukraine's eventual NATO membership but emphasized that this would only occur when agreed upon by allies and certain conditions are met.
The conditions specified by NATO include progress in the ability of Ukrainian forces to operate alongside NATO troops, as well as democratic and security sector reforms. This stance reflects the divisions among NATO members regarding Ukraine's membership aspirations.
Eastern European NATO members have backed Ukraine's call for a clear and expeditious path to membership, arguing that integrating Ukraine into NATO's security umbrella is the best deterrent against further Russian aggression. However, countries such as the United States and Germany have exercised caution, apprehensive about any actions that may escalate tensions and potentially draw NATO into a direct conflict with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently portrayed Ukraine's potential NATO membership as a threat to Russia. In response, NATO has emphasized its defensive nature, asserting that it has no intentions of attacking Russia.
Although Ukraine did not receive the desired membership timeline at the summit, it did secure new commitments of arms from NATO member states. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to supply long-range cruise missiles, while Germany announced aid worth 700 million euros ($770 million), including two Patriot air defense missile launchers, additional tanks, and fighting vehicles.
While the absence of a concrete timeline for Ukraine's NATO membership may be disappointing for President Zelenskyy, the commitments from NATO members to enhance Ukraine's defense capabilities underscore the alliance's support and commitment to ensuring Ukraine's security and stability in the face of Russian aggression. The ongoing dialogue between Ukraine and NATO serves as a testament to the importance of cooperation and collective security in the region.