Biden: Ukraine Must ‘Clean Up Corruption’ to Join NATO

Ukraine's president hinted that NATO approved Kyiv's membership, but NATO leaders only affirmed a possible future membership

On Monday, President Biden said Ukraine has to “clean up corruption” before the country can become a full member of NATO.

“It depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is they still have to clean up corruption. The fact is they have to meet other criteria to get into the Action Plan. And so, it’s — you know, school is out on that question.  It remains to be seen,” Biden said at a press conference in Brussels when asked about Ukraine’s potential membership.

Biden’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that NATO leaders decided during today’s summit that Ukraine could join the alliance. “NATO leaders confirmed that [Ukraine] will become a member of the Alliance & the #MAP is an integral part of the membership process,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

“MAP” refers to the Member Action Plan, which is a formalized process that aspiring NATO members must go through before officially joining the alliance. In 2008, Ukraine applied for MAP. NATO chose not to allow Ukraine to join at the time, but NATO officials agreed Kyiv could eventually become a member.

Ukraine’s plans to join NATO were shelved when Viktor Yanukovych became president in 2010. But since Yanukovych was ousted by a US-backed coup in 2014, Ukraine has moved much closer to NATO’s orbit. The idea that Ukraine will eventually join NATO is now the status quo, which is what NATO officials confirmed on Monday.

“We reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance with the Membership Action Plan,” NATO leaders said in a statement.

Regardless of NATO’s apparent hesitation, Zelensky is still pushing hard for membership. Discussing the NATO summit on Monday, Zelensky said he wanted a clearer stance from Biden. “If we are talking about NATO and the MAP, I would really like to get [from Biden] specifics — yes or no,” he said.

Playing off the anti-Russia hysteria in the US, Zelensky told CBS News that Americans should care about Ukraine’s situation because a war with Russia could come to North America. “It can be tomorrow in their houses,” he said.

While Biden might be hesitant to allow Ukraine to join NATO, his administration continues to support Kyiv militarily. Last week, the Pentagon announced an additional $150 million in military aid for Ukraine, which adds to the $125 million that was released earlier this year.

Biden claims he cares about corruption in Kyiv, but it’s important to note that his family participated in one of the most brazen acts of political corruption in Ukraine. A few months after the Obama administration orchestrated the 2014 coup, Biden’s son Hunter landed a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.