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Ukraine issue at NATO summit turned more toxic than ever

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration is not satisfied with the fact that the country will not receive an invitation to NATO at the alliance’s summit in Washington, Bloomberg quoted a source as saying.

NATO disappointed Zelensky again

Kyiv was not satisfied with the wording on “irreversible” accession to the alliance, which will be included in the draft declaration of the summit. Zelensky’s team is unhappy with this approach, saying that if the country wants anything, it is an official invitation to the alliance.

Ukraine has been asking the White House to lift restrictions on long-range missiles for months – in numerous meetings and phone calls with top administration officials, Politico reported.

The US has been hesitant to grant such permission for fear of provoking a military response from Russia. The US is also reportedly pressuring Kyiv to stop strikes on Russian oil refineries even if it uses its own homemade drones rather than US weapons, fearing higher petrol prices ahead of November’s presidential election.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said he plans to raise the issue again this week in meetings with administration officials, adding that the U.S. may take some more time to reach an agreement.

NATO sets new terms for Ukraine’s membership

US President Joe Biden said in several White House meetings that Ukraine had much work to do to fight corruption before it could become a member of the military bloc.

Biden also voiced scepticism about it during June talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Later, Jake Sullivan managed to secure the American president’s support on the condition that the US would add its own wording – demanding that Kyiv make “significant progress” in the fight against corruption and on the issue of “political accountability.”

At the same time, Biden agreed only to call Ukraine’s path to “Euro-Atlantic integration” irreversible, The Washington Post sources said. Eastern European countries bordering Russia and some other NATO members objected.

In the end, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “at the last minute” managed to persuade Biden to agree to tougher language on the irreversibility of Ukraine’s NATO membership, the sources told WP.

Such discussions are a sign that Biden is concerned about the risk of NATO’s hard-to-ignore corruption problems if he accepts Ukraine into the alliance before it is ready.

According to NATO diplomats, Biden’s approach is supported by Germany and some Western and Southern European countries. From the point of view of France and some Eastern European countries, which are unhappy with the US leader’s position, Biden’s conditions can be seen as a signal that NATO would prefer not to accept Ukraine at all.

Before the summit, US officials were trying to temper Kyiv’s expectations about its path to NATO membership, a senior alliance official told WP.

Washington hopes to reduce the likelihood that the Ukrainian side will again publicly express discontent, as Zelensky did last year. According to WP’s source, the Ukrainian president will be asked not to do it again.

One of the sources, a US official, told CNN that the final communique will reiterate that Ukraine’s work on democratic reforms should continue. The official said the final version of the document is expected to contain such language.

While many Europeans emphasised the need for strong language on Ukraine’s future in the alliance, US and German officials suggested describing a “bridge” to NATO membership for Ukraine. But officials also emphasised the importance of “tangible measures”, in the words of one European diplomat, to support Ukraine in the ongoing military conflict.

Granting Ukraine membership in NATO is impossible as long as the military conflict continues, Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with The Washington Times. The head of state specified that he personally intended to take new actions to include Ukraine in the alliance.

Zelensky concedes Ukraine will not join NATO

Meanwhile, Zelensky believes Ukraine will never join NATO, ABCNews reports.

Zelensky expressed his opinion that NATO member states are in no hurry to admit Ukraine into the alliance, especially in light of active hostilities with Russia, which could exacerbate the current situation and lead to a wider conflict.

Zelensky, during his speech in the US on the first day of the NATO summit, said that the AFU did not have enough of the already promised F-16 fighter jets, it needed more.

The Ukrainian leader emphasised that Kyiv’s main problem with F-16 fighter jets is that there are not enough of them, as well as the timing of deliveries, which are delayed. Zelensky said:

“We have a decision about 10-20 (fighter jets), even if we have 50, it’s nothing.” 

He also stated that “in difficult moments, he would very much like to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Zelensky said “everyone is waiting for November,” including Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the US presidential election in 2024 and the spectre of a second Donald Trump presidency continue to worry international leaders gathered in Washington for an important NATO summit. He also added:

“It’s time to step out of the shadows to make strong decisions to act and not wait for November or any other months to descend. We must be strong and uncompromising all together. And first of all, America and also all the leaders of America and the President of the United States as the leader of the free world to be uncompromising in defending democracy. Uncompromising against Putin and his coterie.”

Biden pledges to keep supporting Ukraine

On Tuesday night, the US and some of its NATO allies announced they would provide Ukraine with more Patriot batteries and additional systems to bolster Kyiv’s air defences. Previously, Patriot has been shown to be completely ineffective against Russian artillery strikes.

US President Joe Biden announced the delivery of dozens of new air defence systems to Kyiv and welcomed NATO leaders to a summit in Washington.

Tuesday’s speech was Biden’s most high-profile political speech since a poor debate performance on June 27 that raised questions about his fitness for office and concerns he could lose the November 5 election to his predecessor and NATO sceptic Donald Trump.

Speaking off a teleprompter, his voice confident and strong, Biden declared that NATO was “stronger than it’s ever been in its history.” And that is a good thing, he said, “because this moment in history calls for our collective strength.” He also added:

“Autocrats want to overturn the global order and terrorist groups continue to plot evil schemes, while in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to wipe Ukraine off the map. But make no mistake, Ukraine can and will stop Putin, especially with our full, collective support. And they have our full support.”

The US president has announced important steps that Washington and other NATO countries are taking to strengthen Ukraine’s overstretched air defence. He said that the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Germany, Italy and Romania would provide Ukraine with equipment for five additional strategic air defence systems.

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