Coming off Monday's meeting of top NATO leaders in Brussels with Joe Biden, President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued a shock statement, claiming that NATO has "agreed" to admit Ukraine into the military alliance with Biden's blessing.
However, in simultaneous remarks given during Biden's anticipated press conference, the president actually appeared to suggest nothing has really change. He said Ukraine has more it must do to meet the "criteria" for NATO membership. "It depends on whether they meet the criteria," Biden told reporters. "The fact is, they still have to clean up corruption... School’s out on that question."
President Zelensky of Ukraine says NATO has agreed to admit Ukraine into alliance. This is a move President Biden backed. https://t.co/fTcZrdmBtj— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) June 14, 2021
This has essentially been the Washington position all along - while the US desires a Ukrainian path to NATO membership, obstacles still remain.
As The Guardian also observed, "A tweet today from the Ukrainian president had led some reporters to think that the Nato summit had approved adding Ukraine as a member, but it seems that will not yet happen."
Hours ahead of Biden's Monday evening press conference, Zelensky had told US media outlets:
"If we are talking about NATO and the [Membership Action Plan], I would really like to get [from Biden] specifics - yes or no... We must get clear dates and the likelihood of this for Ukraine."
Biden was asked point blank on whether the answer would indeed be yes or no...
President Biden on Ukraine joining NATO: "Depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is they still have to clean up corruption...school’s out on that question."— CSPAN (@cspan) June 14, 2021
Full video here: https://t.co/t8w4dxicaB pic.twitter.com/RVu9ytYFMK
Again, the Biden administration message to Kiev long appears to have been "yes" but with the key caveat of meeting the "criteria".
Washington is also very conscious that doing such would be a recipe for future war with Russia - something that also prevents NATO membership (that said country is engaged in border disputes or conflict), according to requirements for entry.
Zelensky to AP, AFP, Reuters today: “If we are talking about NATO and the [Membership Action Plan], I would really like to get [from Biden] specifics - yes or no... We must get clear dates and the likelihood of this for Ukraine.” https://t.co/saNjhHTNBI— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 14, 2021
By all appearances Zelensky jumped the gun, or else used intentionally confusing wording in hopes of generating enough headlines to put the contentious the issue front and center during the June 16 Putin-Biden summit in Geneva.
Ukraine did not just become a member of NATO. Zelensky is reiterating something that was agreed to in 2008. This is from the NATO communiqué today: pic.twitter.com/nfANprVJCM— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) June 14, 2021