Ukraine wins G7 security pledges but its Nato membership remains elusive


Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed fresh pledges of weapons and ammunition to fight Russia’s invasion along with longer-term security commitments from the West on Wednesday.

It comes after the Ukrainian president expressed disappointment over the lack of a clear path for his country to join Nato as the alliance wrapped up its annual summit in Lithuania.

Flanked by G7 leaders including US president Joe Biden at a press conference, Mr Zelenskiy said: “The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for the Ukraine, for our country, for our people, for our children.”

A joint declaration issued by the G7 lays the groundwork for each nation to negotiate agreements to help Ukraine bolster its military over the long term.

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke about the G7 deal to support Ukraine (Susan Walsh/AP)

Mr Zelenskiy described the initiative as a bridge toward eventual Nato membership and a deterrent against Russia.

Mr Biden said, “Our support will last long into the future. We’re going to help Ukraine build a strong, capable defence.”

The Ukrainian and American presidents also met privately along with their advisers, and Mr Biden later pledged that “the United States is doing everything we can to get you what you need”.

He acknowledged that Mr Zelenskiy is sometimes “frustrated” by the pace of military assistance.

Mr Zelenskiy thanked Mr Biden, saying that “you spend this money for our lives”, and said shipments of controversial cluster munitions would help Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

It was a marked shift in tone from Mr Zelenskiy’s complaints a day earlier that it was “unprecedented and absurd” to avoid setting a timeline for Ukraine to join Nato.

On the final day of Nato’s summit, the alliance launched a new forum for deepening ties with Ukraine: the Nato-Ukraine Council.

The US and Ukrainian leaders met during the summit in Lithuania (Susan Walsh/AP)

It is intended to serve as a permanent body where the alliance’s 31 members and Ukraine can hold consultations and call for meetings in emergency situations.

The setting is part of Nato’s effort to bring Ukraine as close as possible to the military alliance without actually joining it.

In a communique issued on Tuesday, the leaders said that Ukraine can join “when allies agree and conditions are met”.

At a news conference alongside Mr Zelenskiy, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said: “Today we meet as equals. I look forward to the day we meet as allies.”

The ambiguous plan for Ukraine’s future membership reflects the challenges of reaching consensus among the alliance’s current members while the war continues, and has frustrated Mr Zelenskiy even as he expressed appreciation for military hardware being promised by the G7.

“The results of the summit are good, but if there were an invitation, that would be ideal,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

He added that joining Nato would be “a serious motivating factor for Ukrainian society” at it resists Russia.

“Nato needs us just as we need Nato,” he said.

Ukraine’s future membership was the most divisive and emotionally charged issue at this year’s summit.

World leaders gathered in Lithuania for the Nato summit (Susan Walsh/AP)

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.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said: “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.”

Amanda Sloat, senior director of European affairs for the US National Security Council, defended the summit’s decisions.

She said: “I would agree that the communique is unprecedented, but I see that in a positive way.”

Ms Sloat noted that Ukraine will not need to work through a “membership action plan” as it seeks to join Nato, although she said “there are still governance and security sector reforms that are going to be required”.

The action plan is usually a key step in the process that involves advice and assistance for countries seeking to join.

Symbols of support for Ukraine are common around Vilnius, where the country’s blue-and-yellow flags hang from buildings and are pasted inside windows.

Support for Ukraine has been evident across Vilnius (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

One sign cursed Russian president Vladimir Putin, while another urged Nato leaders to “hurry up” in their assistance for Ukraine.

However, there was caution inside the summit itself, especially from Mr Biden, who has explicitly said he doesn’t think Ukraine is ready to join Nato.

There are concerns that the country’s democracy is unstable and its corruption remains too deeply rooted.

Under Article 5 of the Nato charter, members are obligated to defend each other from attack, which could swiftly draw the US 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 ceasefire or Ukraine reclaiming all occupied territory.

Either way, Mr Putin would essentially have veto power over Ukraine’s Nato membership by prolonging the conflict.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan,, and Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson made moves on Sweden’s membership of Nato (Yves Herman/AP)

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned Wednesday of bubbling frustration over Mr Zelenskiy’s demands, adding that “people want to see gratitude” for Western military support.

Mr Wallace also said he’s heard “grumbles” from some US lawmakers that “we’re 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 airpower, as well as more training for Ukraine’s beleaguered army.

Mr Zelenskiy has asked that these assurances last at least until Ukraine joins Nato.

Moscow reacted harshly to the G7 plan.

Russia has reacted harshly to the plans announced by the G7 leaders (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We consider this extremely ill-judged and potentially very dangerous.”

He added 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.

Mr Zelenskiy told reporters that the Budapest Memorandum was no help without Nato membership and its mutual defence agreement.

He said: “In fact, Ukraine was left with that document and defended itself alone.”

The summit in Vilnius has seesawed between conflict and compromise, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy admitting his frustration (Yves Herman/AP)

Although international summits are often tightly scripted, this one in Vilnius has seesawed between conflict and compromise.

At first leaders appeared to be deadlocked over Sweden’s bid for membership in the alliance.

However, Turkey unexpectedly agreed to drop its objections on Monday, the night before the summit formally began.

But Mr Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey’s parliament could not consider the matter before October.

However, he does appear keener to develop his relationship with Mr Biden.

The Turkish president has been seeking advanced American fighter jets and a path toward membership in the European Union.

The White House has expressed support for both, but has insisted the issues were not related to Sweden’s membership in Nato.

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