“We are determined to (protect) every inch of territory that is NATO territory,” Biden said, noting that if Ukraine were part of NATO, it would put the alliance at war with Russia.
Biden added that it was “premature” to call for a vote on Ukrainian membership because the country still needs to meet some NATO qualifications. Biden said he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have spoken at length about the issue of membership, saying the two need to lay out a “rational path … for Ukraine to qualify.”
Biden goes to NATO summit with new divisions over Ukraine
Still, Biden said the United States remains committed to providing the war-torn nation with the security assistance it needs to continue fending off Russia.
Like Biden said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said talk of Ukraine’s membership is “premature.” McCaul told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that Ukraine needs to win the counteroffensive against Russia, secure a ceasefire and negotiate a peace settlement before joining NATO.
“We cannot admit Ukraine into NATO immediately; that would put us at war with Russia under UN Article 5,” McCaul said.
Late. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the war “must end with Ukrainian victory” and that Ukraine also needs to join the European Union, which involves “improving their transparency , their rule of law, their civil society, which forms the basis for NATO membership in the future.”
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The comments on Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership come just days after Biden approved sending US cluster munitions to Ukraine. The weapons have been controversial because they explode in the air above a target, releasing dozens to hundreds of smaller submunitions over a wide area. More than 120 countries have joined a convention to ban their use as inhumane and indiscriminate, in part because unexploded submunitions litter the landscape and endanger troops and civilians alike.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday that Ukraine has agreed not to use these powerful munitions on Russian territory. It will use such weapons only on its own territory, where, he said, Kiev has “the highest incentive to limit the impact to civilians, because it is Ukrainian citizens who would be at risk.” Ukraine also agreed not to use the munitions in populated areas, Sullivan said.
Zelensky said in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC that inviting Ukraine to NATO is “all a matter of political will.” Meanwhile, Zelensky said Ukraine “should get clear security guarantees” from NATO members in the effort against Russia.
“It would be an important message to say that NATO is not afraid of Russia,” he said.
Zelensky said he will attend the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this week to do what he can to “speed up this solution to get an agreement with our partners.”
“I don’t want to go to Vilnius for fun,” he said.
Ukraine wants and expects an invitation to join NATO. Allies are not safe.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the US National Security Council, said on ABC’s “This Week” that strong commitments will be made to Ukraine during the upcoming summit.
“You’re going to see the allies really stay united to support Ukraine in this fight against Russia on their soil,” Kirby said. “You will also see from all the allies a concerted, unified approach to make it clear that NATO will ultimately be in Ukraine’s future and that between the end of the war and that happening, the allies will continue to help Ukraine to defend themselves.”
While Biden remained skeptical of Ukraine’s ascension into the alliance in the immediate future, he told CNN he is optimistic that Sweden, which has also campaigned for membership, will soon join NATO. Expanding membership to a new nation requires the approval of all NATO allies, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have cited objections to adding Sweden.
“Sweden has the same set of values that we have in NATO, (is) a small nation but has a capacity to defend itself because it knows how to fight,” Biden said, echoing other statements he has made in the run-up . to the summit. “I think they should be a member of NATO.”
Outliers Turkey, Hungary threaten NATO unity in standoff with Russia
Turkey has criticized Sweden for refusing to extradite people it sees as terrorists, including members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a movement accused of trying to topple the Turkish government in 2016. Turkey has also complained about anti-Erdogan protests in Sweden and demonstrations where Korans were burned.
Officials in Hungary, meanwhile, have cited a variety of reasons for their country’s refusal to ratify Sweden’s accession, ranging from what a government spokesman said was Stockholm’s eagerness to “bash Hungary” to the Nordic country’s “crumbling throne of moral superiority.”
In the interview with CNN, Biden responded to Turkey’s criticism by arguing that it is not “Swedes who burn the Koran. They are immigrants who burn the Koran.”
The White House said Biden and Erdogan spoke Sunday about Sweden’s membership bid, and Biden “conveyed his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible.” Erdogan told Biden that Sweden has taken the “correct steps” to assuage Turkey’s concerns by adopting anti-terror policies — but that those policies were nullified by PKK protests, according to Turkey’s state news agency.
Nitasha Tiku contributed to this report.