Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized “uncertainty” as “weakness” regarding his country’s membership in NATO as the alliance’s annual summit kicked off Tuesday.
“We value our allies. We value our shared security. And we always appreciate an open conversation. Ukraine will be represented at the NATO summit in Vilnius. Because it is about respect. But Ukraine also deserves respect,” Zelensky said in a tweet Tuesday, referencing what he said was “certain wording” about “the invitation to become NATO member.”
“It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance,” he goes on. “This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine’s membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror.”
Zelensky finishes by saying, “Uncertainty is weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit.”
During an interview aired Sunday on CNN, Biden said of Ukraine, “I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO,” adding that membership is “a process that takes some time to meet all the qualifications…from democratization to a whole range of other issues.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday that “in the midst of a war, you’re not going to take the membership step.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak echoed the Biden Administration before he departed for Vilnius, saying that while he hoped there would be “demonstrable progress” on Ukraine’s eventual membership in the world’s largest military alliance, Ukraine’s membership was “not a question for right now, whilst they are in the midst of a conflict.”
The leaders of the the so-called “Bucharest Nine” member nations—Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia—voiced support in June for Ukraine’s membership in NATO “once conditions allow.”
At issue is Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack against one NATO country is considered an attack against all. It has been invoked only once in the history of the alliance, after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. in 2001.
Should NATO accept Ukraine’s membership while it’s at war with Russia, it would be a declaration of war by all 31 member nations against Russia, as well.
Zelensky has previously said he’s not attending the summit “for fun.” He’s seeking a clearer pathway for his country to join NATO, as well as security guarantees.
Sunak has said that he would be joining leaders from several member nations, including the U.S., France and Germany, in continued discussions about providing long-term “security assurances” to Ukraine in the form of further military aid and economic support.
“[I]t will send a strong deterrent message to the Russians,” said the British Prime Minister.
During a recent interview with ABC, Zelensky agreed that security guarantees would send “important message to say that NATO is not afraid of Russia.”
He added, “Only under these conditions, our meeting would be meaningful, otherwise it’s just another politics.”