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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for increased arms and ammunition commitments from Western nations, as well as longer-term security assurances.
However, he expressed regret at the lack of a clear roadmap for Ukraine’s NATO membership at the conclusion of the alliance’s annual summit, according to AP.
“The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for Ukraine, our country, our people, and our children,” he declared, surrounded by US Vice President Joe Biden and other leaders from the Group of Seven most powerful democratic nations.
The G7 released a joint declaration that lays the groundwork for each member nation to engage in long-term negotiations targeted at aiding Ukraine in upgrading its military capabilities. President Zelenskyy described this initiative as a step towards Ukraine’s eventual NATO membership as well as a deterrent to Russia.
“We will not waver,” Biden declared following the summit in Lithuania. “I mean it. Our dedication to Ukraine will not wane. We shall fight for liberty today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.”
President Biden noted President Zelenskyy’s occasional irritation with the speed of military aid during a private discussion between the Ukrainian and American presidents, who were accompanied by their respective advisers. Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to Biden, emphasising that the United States’ financial assistance is critical for the protection of Ukrainian lives.
Furthermore, Zelenskyy stated that the delivery of controversial cluster munitions will help Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
It was a notable change in tone from Zelenskyy’s comments the day before, when he said it was “unprecedented and absurd” not to specify a deadline for Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
According to Biden, Zelenskyy now knows that whether his country is legally a member of NATO is “not relevant as long as he has commitments” such security guarantees. “So he’s not concerned about that now.”
On the final day of the NATO summit, the alliance presented the NATO-Ukraine Council, a newly constituted platform focused at improving NATO-Ukraine cooperation.
This council will serve as a permanent structure, allowing for frequent consultations and organising meetings between the 31 NATO member countries and Ukraine amid emergency situations.
The setting is part of NATO’s attempt to get Ukraine as near to the military alliance as possible without really joining it. The leaders stated in a communique summarising the summit’s conclusions on Tuesday that Ukraine can join “when allies agree and conditions are met.”
“Today, we meet as equals,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated during a joint press conference with Zelenskyy. “I’m looking forward to the day when we can meet as allies.”
The lack of a clear plan for Ukraine’s future membership in NATO underlines the challenges in achieving an agreement among the alliance’s existing members, particularly given the ongoing conflict.
“The summit’s outcomes are positive, but an invitation would be ideal,” Zelenskyy remarked through a translator. He went on to say that joining NATO would be “a serious motivating factor for Ukrainian society” in its fight against Russia.
“NATO needs us just as much as we need NATO,” he declared, standing alongside Stoltenberg.
The future membership of Ukraine was the most contentious and emotionally heated issue at this year’s conference. In effect, Western countries are willing to continue delivering weaponry to Ukraine in order to help it accomplish the job that NATO was created to do — hold the line against a Russian invasion — but will not allow Ukraine to join NATO and profit from its security throughout the conflict.
“We have to stay out of this war while still being able to support Ukraine.” For the past 17 months, we’ve been doing a difficult balancing act. “We must maintain that balancing act for the benefit of everyone,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated.
Blue-and-yellow flags adorn buildings and are displayed in windows in Vilnius as symbols of sympathy with Ukraine. Some banners indicate significant dissatisfaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while others urge NATO leaders to move quickly to protect Ukraine.
Nonetheless, caution was clear throughout the conference, particularly from President Biden, who has explicitly declared that Ukraine is not yet ready to join NATO. Concerns centre on the stability of Ukraine’s democracy and the country’s long-standing problem with deep-seated corruption.
Article 5 of the NATO treaty requires members to defend one another from attack, which could quickly pull the United States and other states into direct conflict with Russia.
It is not easy to define the end of hostilities. Officials have refused to specify the goal, which may be a negotiated cease-fire or the re-acquisition of all occupied land by Ukraine. By prolonging the crisis, Putin would effectively have veto power over Ukraine’s NATO membership.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned on Wednesday of simmering resentment over Zelenskyy’s demands, saying that “people want to see gratitude” for Western military assistance. Wallace has also received “grumbles” from some US senators that “we’re not Amazon.”
“I mean, that’s true,” Wallace told numerous British media sites. When he visited Ukraine last year, he told the Ukrainians the same thing and was given a list of armament requests. “I’m not the Amazon.”
At the same time, the new G7 framework would contain long-term security guarantees to Ukraine.
The major nations vow “rapid and sustained security assistance, modern military equipment across land, sea, and air domains, and economic assistance” to deter a Russian invasion. They also promise to impose additional sanctions on Russia.
They claim they will send weaponry and military equipment, including combat air power, as well as further training for Ukraine’s beleaguered army, both now and in the future. Zelenskky has requested that these assurances be extended until Ukraine joins NATO.
Moscow reacted harshly to the G7 plan
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the conference solidified 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 stated in a statement.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters that “by providing security guarantees to Ukraine, they’re infringing on Russia’s security.”
In the past, Ukraine has been let down by security pledges. In the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom agreed that “none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense” in exchange for Kyiv handing over its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia.
Russia, however, annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and grabbed land in the south and east in 2014. Russia began a full-scale invasion in 2022 in an attempt to destabilise Kyiv, resulting in the current horrific conflict.
Ukraine Zelenskyy Press Release
According to Zelenskyy, the Budapest Memorandum is useless without NATO participation and the mutual defence treaty.
“In fact, Ukraine was left with that document and defended itself alone,” he explained.
The international conference in Vilnius departed from the traditional tightly choreographed framework, oscillating between conflict and compromise.
Initially, leaders appeared to be at odds over Sweden’s ambitions to join the alliance. However, in an unexpected change of events, Turkey withdrew its objections on Monday, only a night before the meeting formally began.