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Business News/ News / World/  Ukraine secures G7 security commitments, yet NATO membership remains elusive
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Ukraine secures G7 security commitments, yet NATO membership remains elusive

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy expressed appreciation for new commitments of weapons and ammunition to combat Russia's invasion but was disappointed by the absence of a clear roadmap for Ukraine's NATO membership at the conclusion of the alliance's annual summit.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy waves from his car as he leaves the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. The United States and other major industrialized nations are pledging long-term security assistance for Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) (AP)Premium
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy waves from his car as he leaves the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. The United States and other major industrialized nations are pledging long-term security assistance for Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin) (AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his appreciation for new commitments of weapons and ammunition to combat Russia's invasion, as well as longer-term security assurances from Western nations.

However, he also expressed disappointment regarding the absence of a clear roadmap for Ukraine's NATO membership during the conclusion of the alliance's annual summit, AP reported.

“The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for the Ukraine, for our country, for our people, for our children," he said while flanked by U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders from the Group of Seven most powerful democratic nations.

The G7 issued a joint declaration that provides a foundation for each member nation to engage in negotiations aimed at assisting Ukraine in strengthening its military capabilities in the long run. President Zelenskyy referred to this initiative as a stepping stone towards Ukraine's eventual NATO membership and a deterrent against Russia.

"We will not waver," Biden vowed after the summit in Lithuania ended. “I mean that. Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for freedom today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes."

Also Read: Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership, says Joe Biden

During a private meeting between the Ukrainian and American presidents, accompanied by their respective advisers, President Biden acknowledged President Zelenskyy's occasional frustration regarding the pace of military assistance. Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to Biden, emphasizing that the financial support provided by the United States is vital for the protection of Ukrainian lives.

Additionally, Zelenskyy mentioned that the delivery of controversial cluster munitions would aid Ukraine in its struggle against Russia.

It was a marked shift in tone from Zelenskyy’s complaints a day earlier, when he said it was “unprecedented and absurd" to avoid setting a timeline for Ukraine to join NATO.

Biden said Zelenskyy now understands that whether his country is formally in NATO is “not relevant as long as he has commitments" such as security guarantees. "So he’s not concerned about that now."

During the concluding day of the NATO summit, the alliance introduced the NATO-Ukraine Council, a newly established forum aimed at strengthening the relationship between NATO and Ukraine.

This council will function as a permanent body, allowing for regular consultations and facilitating meetings during emergency situations between the 31 NATO member countries and Ukraine.

The setting is part of NATO's effort to bring Ukraine as close as possible to the military alliance without actually joining it. On Tuesday, the leaders said in their communique summarizing the summit's conclusions that Ukraine can join “when allies agree and conditions are met."

Also Read: NATO chief says no timetable set for Ukraine’s membership; Zelenskyy calls the decision ‘unprecedented and absurd’

“Today we meet as equals," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference with Zelenskyy. "I look forward to the day we meet as allies."

The lack of a clear plan for Ukraine's future membership in NATO reflects the difficulties in reaching a consensus among the alliance's existing members, particularly in the midst of the ongoing conflict.

“The results of the summit are good, but if there were an invitation, that would be ideal," Zelenskyy said, through a translator. He added that joining NATO would be “a serious motivating factor for Ukrainian society" as it resists Russia.

“NATO needs us just as we need NATO," he said alongside Stoltenberg.

Ukraine's future membership was the most divisive and emotionally charged issue at this year's summit. In essence, Western countries are willing to keep sending weapons to help Ukraine do the job that NATO was designed to do — hold the line against a Russian invasion — but not allow Ukraine to join its ranks and benefit from its security during the war.

“We have to stay outside of this war but be able to support Ukraine. We managed that very delicate balancing act for the last 17 months. It’s to the benefit of everyone that we maintain that balancing act," Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.

In Vilnius, symbols of solidarity with Ukraine are prevalent, with blue-and-yellow flags adorning buildings and displayed in windows. Some signs express strong discontent towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, while others urge NATO leaders to expedite their support for Ukraine.

Nevertheless, caution was evident within the summit itself, particularly voiced by President Biden, who has openly stated that he believes Ukraine is not yet prepared to join NATO. Concerns revolve around the stability of Ukraine's democracy and the persisting issue of deep-rooted corruption within the country.

Under Article 5 of the NATO charter, members are obligated to defend each other from attack, which could swiftly draw the U.S. and other nations into direct fighting with Russia.

Defining an end to hostilities is no easy task. Officials have declined to define the goal, which could suggest a negotiated cease-fire or Ukraine reclaiming all occupied territory. Either way, Putin would essentially have veto power over Ukraine’s NATO membership by prolonging the conflict.

Also Read: NATO summit seeks agreement on Ukraine after Turkey supports Sweden's bid

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace warned Wednesday of bubbling frustration over Zelenskyy's demands, adding that “people want to see gratitude" for Western military support. Wallace also said he's heard “grumbles" from some U.S. lawmakers that “we’re not Amazon."

“I mean, that’s true," Wallace said, according to multiple British media outlets. He recalled telling the Ukrainians the same thing when he visited the country last year and was presented with a list of weapon requests. “I’m not Amazon."

At the same time, the new G7 framework would include long-term commitments to Ukraine's security.

To repel Russian attack, the major powers promise “swift and sustained security assistance, modern military equipment across land, sea and air domains, and economic assistance." They also vow to slap more sanctions on Russia.

For now and into the future, they say, they will provide weapons and military equipment, including combat air power, as well as more training for Ukraine’s beleaguered army. Zelenskky has asked that these assurances last at least until Ukraine joins NATO.

Moscow reacted harshly to the G7 plan

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the summit cemented Ukraine’s “role as the main expendable" in the “hybrid war" that it falsely claimed was “unleashed by NATO against Russia."

“Having embarked on an escalation course, they issued a new batch of promises to supply the Kyiv regime with more and more modern and long-range weapons in order to extend the conflict of attrition for as long as possible," the ministry said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “by providing security guarantees to Ukraine, they’re infringing on Russia’s security."

Ukraine has been let down by security guarantees in the past. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Russia, the US and UK agreed that “none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence" in exchange for Kyiv transferring its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia.

But in 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and seized territory in the south and east. In 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion in an attempt to topple Kyiv, leading to the current bloody conflict.

Zelenskyy told reporters that the Budapest Memorandum was no help without NATO membership and its mutual defence agreement.

“In fact, Ukraine was left with that document and defended itself alone," he said.

In Vilnius, the international summit deviated from the typical tightly scripted format, as it oscillated between conflict and compromise.

Initially, leaders seemed to be at an impasse regarding Sweden's aspirations for membership in the alliance. However, in a surprising turn of events, Turkey unexpectedly withdrew its objections on Monday, just a night before the summit officially commenced.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mausam Jha
A journalist covering International Relations, and Business.
Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
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Published: 13 Jul 2023, 07:37 AM IST
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