President Biden said Friday that Ukraine won’t be brought into NATO anytime soon but said he was willing to give Kyiv support similar to what the US provides Israel.
“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. He acknowledged that bringing Ukraine into NATO would mean that “if the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”
NATO is holding a summit in Vilnius starting this Tuesday, and the alliance is expected to give new commitments to Ukraine. Kyiv is seeking a promise that it can join NATO once the war is over, but the US has expressed reluctance to give that pledge.
Biden said that there are other outstanding issues besides the war that need to be considered before offering Ukraine membership. “But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” he said.
Biden also mentioned how he refused to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a guarantee that Ukraine won’t ever join before Russia invaded Ukraine. “The very first time I met with Putin two years ago in Geneva, and he said, I want commitments on no Ukraine in NATO, I said: ‘We’re not going to do that because it’s an open-door policy,'” he said.
An alternative for Ukraine that has been considered by NATO members is an “Israel model,” something President discussed publicly for the first time with Zakaria. However, Biden suggested that the support could only be provided once there is a ceasefire.
“And one of the things I indicated is, the United States would be ready to provide, while the process was going on, and that’s gonna take a while, to provide security a la the security we provide for Israel: providing the weaponry they need, the capacity to defend themselves. If there is an agreement, if there is a ceasefire, if there is a peace agreement,” he said.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel signed in 2016, the US is providing Israel with $38 billion in military aid over a ten-year period. The MOU covers Fiscal Year 2019 to FY2028, giving Israel $3.8 billion in military aid annually. But Israel does not receive mutual defense guarantees from the US as NATO members are granted under the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5.