VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — NATO leaders are ready to give Ukraine more military support to fight Russia, but only vague guarantees of future membership as the alliance’s summit comes to a close on Wednesday.
A draft agreement states that Ukraine can join NATO “when allies agree and conditions are met”.
Although Zelenskyy had planned to attend the final day of the summit, he was sharply critical of what he described as NATO’s “absurd” reluctance to set a timeline for his country’s acceptance into the alliance.
Essentially, Western countries are willing to continue sending weapons to help Ukraine do the job NATO was designed to do – hold the line against a Russian invasion – but not allow Ukraine to join its ranks and take advantage of its safety.
Zelenskyy said in a speech in a town square in Vilnius on Tuesday that he had “faith” in NATO, but that he “would like this trust to become trust, trust in the decisions we deserve, all of us, every soldier, every citizen. , every mother, every child.”
“Is that too much to ask?” he added.
Symbols of support for Ukraine are common in the city, where the country’s blue-and-yellow flags hang from buildings and taped to windows. One sign cursed Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another urged NATO leaders to “hurry up” their aid to Ukraine.
However, there has been more caution during the summit itself, especially from US President Joe Biden, who has explicitly said he does not think Ukraine is ready to join NATO. There are concerns that democracy in the country is unstable and corruption remains too entrenched.
Moreover, Western countries are afraid of a bigger conflict. Several leaders, from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, said it was too risky to allow Ukraine into the war.
Article 5 of the NATO charter obliges members to defend each other against attacks that could quickly draw the US and other countries into direct combat with Russia.
However, it is not an easy task to end hostilities. Officials have declined to define the target, which could indicate a negotiated ceasefire or Ukraine regaining all occupied territory. Either way, Putin would essentially veto Ukraine’s NATO membership by prolonging the conflict.
Wednesday’s pledges were to include a new “cadres” from the Group of Seven countries acting on the margins of the summit that would ensure Ukraine’s long-term security.
The British Foreign Office said in a statement that the G7 joint statement would “outline how allies will support Ukraine over the coming years to end the war and deter and respond to future attacks. It is the first time that so many countries have agreed such a comprehensive long-term security arrangement with another country.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that supporting Ukraine’s “progress towards NATO membership, coupled with formal, multilateral and bilateral agreements and the overwhelming support of NATO members, will send a strong signal to President Putin and bring peace back to Europe”. .”
While international summits are often tightly fixed, this one has oscillated between conflict and compromise.
Initially, the leaders seemed deadlocked over Sweden’s bid for alliance membership. However, Turkey unexpectedly agreed to withdraw its objections the night before the summit formally began.
The deal sparked boasting from leaders eager for a show of solidarity in Vilnius.
“This summit is historic even before it even started,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters that “rumours of the death of the NATO unit were greatly exaggerated.”
Erdogan has not publicly commented on the Sweden membership deal, even during a Tuesday evening meeting with Biden where Biden referred to “the agreement you reached yesterday.”
However, Erdogan seemed eager to develop his relationship with Biden. He said previous meetings were “just a warm-up, but now we are starting a new process”.
The Turkish president is seeking advanced US fighter jets and a path to European Union membership. The White House has expressed support for both, but has publicly insisted that the issues were unrelated to Sweden’s membership of NATO.
Associated Press writer Liudas Dapkus contributed to this report.