Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Saturday that his country will sit out the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius this July if Kyiv is not given a “signal” toward full membership in the alliance.
Zelensky said he doesn’t expect Ukraine to be granted membership while fighting is ongoing but wanted a pledge the country would be admitted after the war. “If we are not given a signal in Vilnius, I believe there is no point for Ukraine to be at this summit,” he said.
When asked if he expected to get the signal he wanted, Zelensky said, “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.” Ukraine was first promised eventual NATO membership in 2008 despite warnings at the time that Ukrainian entry into the alliance was the “brightest of all red lines” for Moscow. But Kyiv was never given a timeline on when it might actually join NATO.
Ukraine’s backers in NATO have been debating what guarantees they will provide Kyiv at the Vilnius summit. Most members seem to agree that Ukraine can’t be granted full membership, but the more hawkish NATO countries in Eastern Europe want to provide Ukraine with a roadmap for joining the alliance.
One idea that is gaining popularity among NATO countries is an Israel-style model for Ukraine, which would involve the provision of massive military aid but no NATO Article V-style mutual defense guarantee. French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that he favored giving Ukraine “concrete security guarantees” that fall somewhere between the Israel model and full-fledged membership.
Whatever NATO chooses to do to increase support for Ukraine at the Vilnius summit will likely prolong the war in Ukraine, as Ukrainian neutrality is a key Russian war aim. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made clear in a speech on Friday that the US plans to support an open-ended conflict as he rejected the idea of a ceasefire and said the US will continue to build up Ukraine’s military.