Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed in his phone conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday that Ukraine needs “a real step-by-step plan” tied to calendar dates for its accession to NATO, the chief of the Ukrainian presidential office Andriy Yermak said according to a report on Ukraine’s official website.
The time of statements and declarations of intent should be a thing of the past, Zelensky told Biden.
“There can be no doubt that Ukraine is an integral part of Europe in terms of its value foundation. Now, in the new situation in Europe, we need a logistical plan for Ukraine’s accession to the Alliance in the near future. NATO is a way of maximum protection for our country,” Zelensky said.
According to a second official report, Zelensky also informed Biden about the situation in Donbas, a Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by Russian-backed separatists, and explained the reasons and nature of the periodic escalation of the conflict.
“The so-called withdrawal of Russian troops is only an imitation,” Zelensky said.
There was still a high concentration of Russian troops and heavy weapons in the temporarily occupied Ukraine’s territories and near the Ukrainian border, he explained.
“Ukraine’s move to NATO is also an opportunity to achieve the preconditions for establishing a stable and lasting peace in Donbas,” the second report states.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on June 4 during an event at The Brookings Institution that the best way for Ukraine to move toward membership in NATO is to implement reforms to fight corruption and to modernize its defense and security institutions. “We are helping [Ukraine] with that as they move toward further Euro-Atlantic integration,” he added.
NATO provides support to Ukraine in the form of training and capacity building, Stoltenberg said, and encouraged NATO Allies “to do more of that.”
After the Russian aggression in 2014, Ukraine’s interest to join NATO continued to grow, according to Kyiv Post.
However, resolving territorial and international disputes is a prerequisite to joining the Alliance. Therefore, Ukraine’s unresolved conflicts over Crimea and Donbas could affect membership eligibility, according to an analysis by The Center for European Policy Analysis.
Biden will participate in the NATO Summit on June 14 in Brussels, Belgium, however aspirant countries would not be invited to the Summit. Stoltenberg said at a press conference that “the summit will only be for Allies because it is a relatively short summit—one day.”
Ukraine and Russia have been in conflict since 2014 when Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed a rebellion in Donbas.
Zelensky, since his election two years ago, has sought to resolve the conflict, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014.
Russia launched a buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border earlier this year before announcing in April that it would pull back those forces. The provocative move alarmed the United States and other European allies.