The President of Ukraine, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, and the President of the United States, Joe Biden.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | fake images
NATO and Ukraine clashed publicly for the first time this week.
In a meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the 31 NATO members, there was clear friction between kyiv and the military alliance. This culminated in Ukrainian leader Volodomyr Zelenskyy saying Tuesday that the absence of a timetable for his country to join NATO was “absurd.”
A senior diplomat present at the meetings told CNBC on Thursday that Zelenskyy “exaggerated” his hand during the summit and was therefore pressured by the United States and others to show more gratitude.
There was a “very clear message from the US side, you [Ukraine] went too far,” the senior diplomat who attended the meetings in Lithuania but preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue told CNBC on Thursday.
The comments give insight into the power dynamics within NATO. Even if some members are keen to follow Ukraine’s request, the United States in particular does not support kyiv’s immediate membership at this time.
“The outcome of the summit reflects the basic reality that NATO is a US security commitment to, as the world’s strongest military power, defend other eligible countries. NATO will therefore always move at the speed of Washington, which at the moment is obsessed with China for the long term,” Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), told CNBC via email.
“The United States, therefore, will not allow a country at war to enter NATO and commit to too firm a timetable,” he added. Ukraine has been fighting the full-scale invasion by Russia since February 2022.
During a NATO public forum on Wednesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the American people deserve a degree of gratitude for their support after a Ukrainian activist criticized the lack of a precise timetable. for Kiev to join NATO.
UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace also said “I’m not Amazon” on Wednesday, when speaking about arms deliveries to kyiv. “Like it or not, people want to see gratitude,” he said, according to Reuters. His boss, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he quickly distanced himself from those comments.
Public opinion continues to support Ukraine throughout the European Union, but there have been a drop in support for some specific measures. In fact, the number of citizens who support sending arms or imposing economic sanctions on Russia has declined during the first 12 months of the war.
“The fact is that time is not on our side. The longer this conflict drags on, the more difficult it will be to find the money. This is undeniable,” said Maria Demertzis, senior researcher at the Bruegel think tank.
In a joint press release also on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden told Zelenskyy: “I know that you often get frustrated with when things, what things are coming to you fast enough and what is affecting and how we are getting there. But I promise you that the United States is doing everything possible to get you what you need as quickly as possible.”
Biden also added: “And I look forward to the day when we have the gathering to celebrate your official NATO membership.”
NATO’s 31 members did not commit to a date for Ukraine to join the group. Instead, they removed the need for an action plan as “Ukraine has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the alliance” and said they will extend an invitation.”when allies agree and the conditions are met.
The bottom line is that Ukraine will not become a NATO member while the war drags on.
“The key is that we [the West] they have played a very delicate balance, we ourselves cannot be at war,” the same senior diplomat told CNBC.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen acknowledged that even if NATO gave a clear path for Kiev’s membership, “it would not be a 100% guarantee” that it would join anytime soon. Finland is the newest member of NATOhaving joined in early April.
However, Valtonen brushed aside claims that Ukraine has not shown gratitude, arguing that the aid should not be seen as charity.
Still, Zelenskyy seemed to have heard the criticism. His public statements after Tuesday’s speech were marked by repeated assessments. Returning to Ukraine from the NATO summit, he said via Twitter: “I am grateful to everyone who has worked for unity in Vilnius.”