Ukraine, US and their allies disagree on membership decision


The world has gotten a glimpse of the inner workings of Ukraine’s dealings with its Western patrons and, like many marriages, it is complicated.

During a high-profile two-day NATO summit in Lithuania, the intense disputes that diplomats usually prefer to keep behind closed doors spilled out into the open, revealing a relationship between Kiev and Western capitals that can be very strained. , emotionally tense and occasionally messy.

Heading into the final day of the summit, the United States and its allies were locked in a disagreement that highlighted fundamental divisions between the war-torn country and its Western partners. Russia, meanwhile, gloated from the sidelines.

By the end of the summit, Ukraine and its backers had done their best to disguise any discord, with President Joe Biden praising Ukraine’s «amazing» courage and Ukraine’s leader effusively thanking the United States for its support. Ukraine emerged from the summit with tangible victories in hand, including unprecedented long-term security commitments from the world’s leading democracies and a simplified path to future NATO admission.

Still, the brief eruption of frustration between the allies who have tried to come forward in unison was a window into the difficult task of keeping the alliance together as the war in Ukraine passes the 500-day mark.

To hear NATO’s version of events, the summit in Lithuania showed the «unwavering solidarity» of the alliance with Ukraine «in the heroic defense» of its people and Western values, according to its published statement Tuesday. He said NATO would extend an invitation for Ukraine to join the 31-member defense organization, but only when all allies agree and certain conditions are met.

Ukraine has shown a more pessimistic view of what has happened, at least initially. She believes that by holding Europe’s eastern flank against Russia she has already done more than enough to be offered a concrete entry plan.

“When will the conditions be met? What are those conditions? Who has to formulate them? Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with Radio Free Europe on Wednesday. He was echoing its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who arrived in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Tuesday while he was furious over NATO’s «strange words about ‘conditions’.»

Zelenskyy went on to deliver a sweeping speech in central Vilnius on Tuesday, giving a clear warning that he wanted to see «a NATO that doesn’t waver, doesn’t waste time and doesn’t look down on any aggressor,» referring to a Western fears of escalating war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Zelenskyy’s tone had changed Wednesday afternoon when he thanked Biden, saying «you spend this money on our lives.» He also praised the United States for sending shipments of controversial cluster munitions.

During a warm public meeting with Zelenskyy, Biden acknowledged «frustration I can only imagine» more than 15 years after NATO promised Kiev a path to future membership.

But feelings ran deep among Ukrainians. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Center for Anti-Corruption Action, a Kiev-based non-governmental organization that monitors corruption in Ukraine, said the president’s strident tone simply reflected the country’s opinion of her. «Our allies should not be frustrated by her words because this is what Ukrainians on the ground feel,» she Kaleniuk told NBC News.

The NATO summit comes at a crucial time for Ukraine, whose counteroffensive is going slower than expected even as Russian President Vladimir Putin grapples with the fallout from a brief rebellion by Russia’s own mercenary forces.

NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was formed after World War II and is based on the principle that all its members would defend an ally under attack. NATO opened the door for Ukrainian membership in 2008, but it never happened. Four years later, Russia annexed Crimea before launching a full-scale invasion last year.

Although his country has received tens of billions of dollars in Western military aid, Zelenskyy says NATO membership is crucial not only for the defense of his homeland but also for the protection of his European neighbors. But the US and Germany, fearful of risking a broader war with the Kremlin, have made it clear that a concrete timetable for membership it’s premature

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