News Bulletin
Daily News Portal

US and key allies debating what commitment to give on Ukraine joining NATO at upcoming


The United States and several key allies, including the United Kingdom, are actively debating how strongly to commit to Ukraine’s NATO membership at the alliance’s upcoming 75th anniversary summit in Washington, with the US facing criticism from a variety of European countries for not being willing to go as far as several – especially those close to Russia’s border – would like, according to multiple US and European sources familiar with the discussions.

US and German officials have proposed that the alliance pledge during next month’s summit that Ukraine has a “bridge” to NATO membership, rather than an “irreversible path” as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in April in language that is favored by the UK and several Eastern and Central European nations, multiple sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

The eventual language issued by the alliance about Ukraine during July’s summit in Washington is critical. It will be painstakingly debated by the allies in the days leading up and then heavily scrutinized, as it will outline to the world – Russia in particular – what the goals are for Ukraine within NATO.

“At the (Washington) Summit, we’ll be taking concrete steps to bring Ukraine closer to NATO and ensure that there’s a bridge to membership, a bridge that’s strong and well-lit,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a NATO Foreign Ministerial in Prague in late May.

A senior US official said that Biden administration officials do not think the word “irreversible” would get the support of the entire alliance, pointing in particular to Hungary as a likely holdout. The official said the US believes they are close to a resolution with all allies on the language but declined to preview the decision.

Some NATO members are also reluctant to use the word because Ukraine has yet to implement all of the necessary democratic and anti-corruption reforms necessary for membership, a separate US official said.

With the summit about a month away, the topic remains a central point of tension in ongoing conversations.

“Most Central European countries are disappointed by the Biden administration’s ambiguity and procrastination” when it comes to outlining a concrete pathway forward for Ukraine, a Central European diplomat told CNN.

A second European official whose country is more aggressive on Ukraine’s membership than the US said that European allies have been directly lobbying the White House to make Ukraine’s pathway as clear as possible.

“We instinctively feel a new path should be laid out,” the second official said. “Fast tracking [Ukraine’s membership] should be looked at.”

In April, Stoltenberg told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv that “the work we are undertaking now puts you on an irreversible path towards NATO membership, so that when the time is right, Ukraine can become a NATO member straightaway.”

Still, there is a general recognition that NATO’s position out of the summit needs to have advanced from last year’s meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, when the allies declared that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO” but didn’t offer a timeline. Members of the alliance announced at the time that they would remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine, making it easier for the country to join the alliance, but still declined to offer a timeline on how long that might take.

That was met with fury by Zelensky who posted on X that it was “unprecedented and absurd” not to have been offered a timeline for membership.

It was back in 2008 at a NATO summit in Budapest that Ukraine was first offered a vague commitment of an invitation to join in the future. Ukrainians often invoke the lack of clarity dating back 16 years as an argument for deserving more, particularly when under attack by Russia.

“I’m certain that we will also have language expressing that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said Tuesday at a news conference at the US State Department. “The exact language, exactly what we will agree … are now discussed among allies. But I’m confident we have a good solution, agreement by the summit.”

The Biden administration has trumpeted its newly signed ten-year defense pact with Ukraine, which calls itself “a bridge to Ukraine’s eventual membership in the NATO Alliance.”

But for many Europeans that doesn’t go far enough.

“Of course we’d be for ‘irreversible,’” a third Eastern European official said.

It’s “not a big secret we are eager to get more” than the US, the official added, adding they hope the US administration can remain “flexible” ahead of the formal meetings next month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that peace talks would only begin with Ukraine if Kyiv officially gives up on its NATO aspirations.

“As soon as Kyiv declares that it is ready for such a decision,” Putin said on Friday, “an order to cease fire and begin negotiations will immediately follow from our side, literally at the same minute.”

A key component of NATO membership is a mutual defense pact known as Article V that commits NATO allies to defend any member that is attacked. Ukraine has been intensifying its push to join NATO since it was first attacked by Russia in 2014.

Since the war in Ukraine began in 2022, Ukrainian and European officials have accused the US of being too afraid of provoking Putin and escalating the conflict. Ukraine has both been grateful and frustrated as it watched the US offer bigger and bigger weapons packages, but at a slower pace than it has needed.

Last month Stoltenberg indirectly criticized the Biden administration for not allowing Ukraine to use US weapons to fire into Russia, which Ukrainians have said amounts to them fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

“This is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told The Economist. “Ukraine has the right to defend themselves. And that includes striking targets on Russian territory.”

On May 30 the Biden administration announced that Ukraine could fire into Russia but only in a limited way: at military targets across the border from the city of Kharkiv and not with the most formidable US weapons, the long-range ATACMS missile.

London has often been much more forward-leaning than Washington on weaponry for Ukraine and how it’s used. Generally, throughout the conflict, British officials, the closest US allies in NATO, have consistently hoped the White House would take a more aggressive stance.

Officials who CNN spoke with emphasized that when it comes to the NATO communique that no decisions have been made yet and the language is still actively under discussion ahead of the summit.

“When the text is on the table and the countries start to negotiate we can see the full picture,” the Eastern European official said. “We are ready to negotiate; of course we would like to have it be as ambitious as possible.”

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed reporting.

Read Nore:US and key allies debating what commitment to give on Ukraine joining NATO at upcoming