NATO announced on Tuesday that Ukraine will be invited to join the alliance, but did not say when or when, disappointing its president but showing the determination of President Biden and other leaders not to be directly involved in Ukraine’s war with Russia.
In a press release agreed with all 31 NATO countries, the agreement said that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” and it will be allowed to join when the member states agree that the situation is ripe – but did not specify the specifics or the time. It pledged to continue to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia and to engage the alliance’s foreign ministers in an interim review of Ukraine’s progress towards NATO standards – in democracy and military integration.
The statement means that Mr. Biden, who announced last week that “Ukraine is not ready to become a member of NATO,” and his like-minded allies won over Poland and the Baltic countries who want to invite Ukraine to join the alliance soon. the war is over. NATO leaders released the document, agreed weeks later, at a meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania.
A few hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, apparently knowing what he was about to say, unleashed a blast on the NATO leadership. “Unprecedented and unheard of as time has not been set, neither the invitation nor the membership of Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter before arriving in Vilnius.
Instead of membership, NATO leaders on Tuesday offered new support for Zelensky’s military to fight against Russia, promises combined with a statement intended to declare to President Vladimir V. Putin that his strategy of destroying European countries will not work. Their information said that Ukraine has come very close to the political and military principles of the alliance.
Mr. Zelensky will have dinner with NATO leaders and participate on Wednesday in the first NATO-Ukraine Council, trying to include the country in the negotiations of the alliance even as a non-voting member.
But what Ukraine wants – and what Mr. Biden and Germany, among others, do not want to give – is the main benefit of full membership: The promise of collective security, that an attack on any NATO country is an attack on all.
Mr. Biden has warned that he does not want to be forced into a direct war with the Russian military, warning “that is World War III.”
Mr Zelensky threatened not to attend the meeting if he was not happy with NATO’s commitment. He and his top aides said that if Ukraine had joined NATO, Putin would not have dared to attack and go to war with the Western alliance.
Historians and geostrategists have been arguing about it for years. But with the release of the communiqué, Mr. Biden seems to have achieved two things he wanted most from the meeting.
With Sweden’s approval and support from Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, Biden helped pressure Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop blocking Sweden’s membership, which requires unanimous consent. And with the language adopted on Tuesday in Vilnius, there is no known date – or known conditions – when Ukraine will become a member.
The closest word to their commitment is this: “We can invite Ukraine to join the alliance if the allies agree and the conditions are met.”
As one important agreement, NATO agreed that Ukraine would not need to take any action to prepare for the invitation. Both Sweden and Finland, who joined this year, were also allowed to skip this.
Moscow has made it clear that it is closely following the meeting. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said that the new equipment provided to Ukraine “will force us to take action,” and criticized Turkey for allowing Sweden to join. Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said that Russia will investigate “how NATO is expanding rapidly and deeply in the territory of Finland and Sweden,” and will respond accordingly.
The debate within NATO over its joint statement was deep, said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation.
“There is a big difference between the United States, Germany and a few allies who are committed to the principle of the open door of NATO, but do not want to see a period of stability or stability, and the countries close to Russia who are pushing hard. It is difficult to turn the ambiguity of Bucharest into something. very strong,” he said. It was the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, that promised Ukraine and Georgia membership.
For the United States, Mr. Charap said, Ukraine’s recent membership “incorporates the threat of a NATO-Russia war from a country that is fighting against Russia into the alliance,” he said, noting that Moscow for many years calls Ukraine. membership in NATO red line. “For some, Ukraine’s membership is a way of peace and stability, because it will deter Russia and stabilize Ukraine and end instability.”
The Bucharest pledge was a way to get Ukraine’s membership on track. This would not be possible, because of the war. “At some point the road comes to an end, and we may be coming to an end,” Mr. Charap said.
NATO has been keen to use the Vilnius conference as a showcase for the Atlantic alliance, and in that goal it was very successful. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in several interviews that Putin’s policy has been to wait for NATO countries to tire of war. But the Russian leader, he said, “will not go through Ukraine, and when he ends this violent war, it’s better.”
The Allies came to Vilnius with additional promises of arms and ammunition to Ukraine to strengthen its slow-moving opposition: long “Scalp” missions from France; 25 others Leopard tanks, 40 infantry fighting vehicles, and two other Patriot air-defense systems. There was a package of $770 million from Germany and $240 million from Norway for undisclosed equipment and other support.
In addition, the defense ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands have announced that they have gathered 11 countries to help Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets next month. Mr. Biden agreed in May to drop his opposition to giving Ukraine F-16s, although that won’t happen until next year.
Scalp missiles are a weapon similar to the Storm Shadows that Britain, in May, said it had sent to Ukraine. The arrows, developed jointly by France and Britain, have a length about 150 miles.
France has previously ordered the supply of such missiles to Ukraine over concerns they could be used to attack Russia, fueling tensions. But President Emmanuel Macron said he is sending Scalp weapons now to help Ukraine defend itself.
The communiqué also contained more than 60 words about nuclear weapons, warning Russia of “serious consequences” if it uses one in war, while promising to renew the nuclear arsenals of the three NATO nuclear powers: the United States, Britain and France.
Kremlin officials have said several times that Russia may use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and recently began sending them to Belarus. “We condemn Russia’s reckless nuclear rhetoric and show of coercion,” the leaders said.
The communiqué also contains lengthy sections on threats posed by China. Although his tone is milder than his comments on Russia, he says China is at a long-term risk. This language is important because in the past years, NATO, focused on European security, did not think about China.
“The PRC aims to control the major sectors of technology and industry, critical infrastructure, technical equipment and supplies,” it said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. “It uses its economic power to build interdependent weapons and expand its power. It tries to undermine international law, including space, cyber and sea.”
Taken together, the Russian and Chinese parts of the communiqué leave no doubt that NATO sees the world moving into an era of Cold War-like confrontation.
Mr. Stoltenberg was at pains to show reporters that NATO’s commitment to Ukraine’s membership was different from the vague promise of 2008.
He said NATO had moved closer to Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea and launched a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014, and NATO began training Ukrainian troops. They have come the closest since last year’s invasion of Russia, when NATO countries began pouring billions of dollars worth of military equipment into Ukraine.
Mr. Stoltenberg and American officials argue that Mr. Zelensky will be able to return to Ukraine with other major rewards: direct participation in NATO negotiations on the war, a strong commitment to Ukrainian membership, a new commitment to the military and financial support for the medical it’s a long time, it’s a sure message it sends to mr. Putin.