Pune, India. 18 June 2021. Recently, a NATO summit reaffirmed the 2008 decision for Ukraine to become a member through a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that NATO leaders had “confirmed” it would become a member. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made clear that no such action was imminent.
Stoltenberg’s remarks came a day after US President Joe Biden refused to give a “yes” or “no” to Ukraine joining NATO at the alliance’s annual summit in Brussels. Meanwhile, Biden did affirm at a press conference that the U.S. and other NATO allies affirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ahead of a summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine seems eager to interpret its interactions with NATO in its favour. Zelenskyy said in a tweet, “NATO leaders confirmed that [Ukraine] will become a member of the Alliance & the #MAP is an integral part of the membership process. [Ukraine] deserves due appreciation of its role in ensuring Euro-Atlantic security.”
When Biden was questioned regarding the same, he commented that NATO’s inclusion of Ukraine would depend on Ukraine’s anti-corruption activities and its implementation of NATO’s criteria to get to the MAP. “And so it’s, you know, school’s out on that question. It remains to be seen,” Biden said, adding, “It will not just depend on me whether or not we conclude that Ukraine can become part of NATO. It will depend on the alliance and how they vote.”
Meanwhile, Biden also said that the US would “do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression.” Ukraine has been locked in a tense tug-of-war with Russia ever since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula following the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president in 2014 and a Russia-backed separatist insurgency emerging in the country’s east. The conflict that has killed more than 14,000.
In response to these developments, Putin issued a strong warning in an interview on Russian state television that the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO was “unacceptable” for Russia. He noted that it would allow the alliance’s missiles to reach Moscow and other key targets in western Russia in under seven minutes. He said that the destabilizing situation was equivalent to Russia positioning missiles in Mexico or Canada.
Last week, the Pentagon announced a $150 million security aid package for Ukraine. Pentagon officials have highlighted the efforts of Ukraine on reforms such as defense procurement and anti-corruption laws, and also noted five additional actions it must take to conform to Western standards.
“The United States is committed to assisting Ukraine with the implementation of these reforms, and we maintain a robust advisory effort to help modernize Ukraine’s military in line with NATO principles and standards,” said the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Laura Cooper. Zelenskyy has urged NATO members to accelerate Ukraine’s entry into the alliance after a standoff with Russia this year that saw Russia mass additional troops and military equipment near Ukraine’s borders.