Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has been urging North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to extend membership to his country for many months.
Since Russia first invaded Ukraine back in February 2022, Zelensky has relied on weapons and equipment deliveries provided by the intergovernmental organization to thwart Moscow’s advances. The Ukrainian president has not been shy about his desire to join NATO, often suggesting that his country would make the alliance stronger.
This weekend, U.S. president Joe Biden discussed the prospects for Ukraine’s entry to NATO in a CNN interview. Biden essentially pushed the issue down the line, claiming that Ukraine was not ready to join NATO just yet, especially amidst the ongoing Russian war. Unsurprisingly, Zelensky was not pleased with this comment.
Zelensky lashes out on social media
“It’s unprecedented and absurd when [a] time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership. While at the same time vague wording about ‘conditions’ is added even for inviting Ukraine,” Zelensky stated on his Twitter handle. He also noted that the international alliance was disrespecting Ukraine by preventing its entry to NATO and was consequently “motivating” Russia in the process. Although harsh, Zelensky’s response is what you would expect a president whose country is under attack would be. NATO was created in the aftermath of the Second World War in 1949 to embody a peacekeeping alliance between the U.S., Canada and several Western European countries to counter the growing Soviet threat. NATO members have committed to aiding their allies if attacked by a third party. Since Zelensky rightfully believes the manpower and gunpower NATO allies can provide would effectively thwart Russian forces, the Ukrainian president perhaps hopes to enter this intergovernmental body more than anything.
Biden pushes Ukraine’s potential entry to NATO down the line
President Biden and other NATO allies met with Zelensky during the group’s annual summit hosted this year by Lithuania. This meeting is significant, since it comes days after Biden’s remarks regarding Kyiv’s NATO prospects in addition to the U.S. president’s decision to supply Ukrainian forces with even more military assistance. Since the invasion first broke out, the U.S. has provided billions of dollars’ worth of aid to Ukraine, including humanitarian assistance, military equipment and weapons. Without this assistance from the U.S. and other NATO member states, Ukraine would probably be faring much worse than it is now.
Perhaps the top weapons in Ukraine’s arsenal today, including Western main battle tanks (MBTS), Javelins, HIMARS, and the Patriot defense system, have been provided by the U.S. and its NATO allies. Zelensky has expressed his gratitude for the frequent aid packages the West has provided, however, the president is clearly expressing his frustration regarding Biden’s insistence that Kyiv is not ready to become a NATO member. Obviously, Zelensky should be pushing for his country to enter NATO since that would be in the best interest for Ukraine. However, it is not in the best interest for the U.S. to confront Russia in a kinetic war to defend foreign borders. Perhaps this general consensus among lawmakers and the White House will change over time, but for now, Zelensky should consider the massive implications of bringing NATO directly to the battlefields.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.