Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was on his way home on Thursday from NATO meetingHe is emphasizing the success of his efforts to bring his country closer to the union, even though he does not have the exact time frame to join that he wanted.
After receiving new promises of weapons and reconfirming security commitments from powerful Western allies, Mr. Zelensky is still coming out of the two-day meeting with Ukraine in the same position of war.
Russia attacks drones again headed for the capital at night. The long-standing opposition in Ukraine is intensifying. And there was no official invitation to NATO, because some of its main members, including the United States, are interested in being drawn into the war with Russia.
After Mr. Zelensky complained about the “absurdity” of the lack of time for NATO membership, some Western officials at the meeting, in Lithuania, appeared to oppose his continued demands for aid, urging Ukrainian officials to go. show more “gratitude”. Mr. Zelensky changed his tone when he arrived at the meeting, thanking Western organizations and NATO for their support.
As he left Lithuania, he released a video message that appeared to reassure his war-weary nation that the trip had not been in vain. “We have put an end to all doubts and ambiguity as to whether Ukraine will be in NATO,” he said. “It will!”
The Strategic Communications Department of the Ukrainian military also posted a lengthy Twitter thread highlighting the positive outcome of the meeting.
Mr. Zelensky’s messages, flexible and grateful, showed the way that has been tested during the war and the problems of destruction that he is facing after more than 16 months of Russian aggression. The Ukrainian leader has taken a more direct approach and asked more often, in part to show a war-weary home audience that he is pushing his allies as far as possible. Instead, requests that were initially rejected – including Western tanks, missiles, and even training for F-16 fighter jets – were eventually granted.
Mr. Zelensky actually left the meeting and promises of long-range missiles from France, more tank equipment from Germany and NATO and Group of 7 defense assistance.
“We are returning home with good results for our country, and more importantly, for our soldiers,” he said in a video posted Thursday morning.
But it was not immediately clear how long these weapons would take to arrive, or how much of a boost it would provide for Ukrainian forces to retake the southern and eastern part of the country. The program is in its second month, and Mr. Zelensky admitted that it is moving more slowly than some allies had hoped.
Kyiv’s military has also captured some small farming villages in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, but in recent weeks appears to have stalled in the face of regular Russian forces.
The Ukrainian military on Thursday mentioned it “benefits elsewhere” – including encircling the eastern city of Bakhmut and the southern cities of Melitopol and Berdiansk – but said Russian forces were “fighting hard.”
The protests “are not going as well as the Ukrainians hoped,” Michael Kofman, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said this week on the “War on the Rocks” podcast.
Mr. Kofman said that it appears that the forces of Kyiv – hampered by minefields, Russian helicopter attacks and deep defense lines – have changed their strategy to try to weaken Moscow’s military power by killing. But he warned that Ukraine would not have much of an advantage in such tactics against Russia’s larger military forces.
The Biden administration has admitted that Kyiv’s military is running out of ammunition for its opposition. This is one reason Mr. Biden approved last week sending weapons to Ukraine that are dangerous to civilians and are banned by all but a few countries, including the United States, Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine has also been asking the United States for long-range anti-aircraft missiles, known as ATACMS, which have a range of about 190 kilometers – about 40 miles longer than the missiles offered by France and Britain. American and European officials have said that the Biden administration, after months of saying it would not hand over the weapons for fear of further offending Russia, is considering sending a few to Kyiv.
Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed reports.