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Ukraine presses US on NATO membership

September 2, 2021

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has met with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. He pressed for a firm commitment on NATO membership from the US, but got little encouragement.

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office
Zelenskyy is keen for Ukraine to join NATO, but he got little encouragement from BidenImage: Doug Mills/CNP/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office Wednesday, pressing him on NATO membership but walking away with no firm answer.

Zelenskyy raised the issue of Ukraine's most significant strategic goal, namely for it to join NATO, but Biden was more interested in expressing the United States' opposition to Russian aggression.

Biden has remained steadfast that Ukraine has a long way to go in implementing reforms before it is ready to join the military alliance.

"The United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression and our support for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations," Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, though, did touch upon the topic of Ukraine's potential membership as she said the White House maintains its "support and we continue to call for ensuring that NATO's door remains open to aspirants."

Ukraine awash in insecurity

Before his Oval Office visit, Zelenskyy spent Tuesday at the Pentagon pressing for US military assistance to push back against Russia and Moscow-backed separatists in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskyy is only the second European leader to have a meeting with Biden at the White House.

The timing of the meeting between the two leaders in late August and the fact that it was pushed back among the frantic nature of the Kabul airlift, suggests Ukraine is not a top priority for the US, unlike when Donald Trump was in the White House.

Biden's decision to wave US sanctions on several involved in the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline left Ukraine reeling.

Kyiv would like to maintain its transit rights for Russian natural gas, worth billions over the years, whereas Nord Stream 2 bypasses Eastern Europe to deliver gas straight to Germany.

While the White House says it's hostage to deals made before Biden's tenure as president, the White House says it remains concerned by the geostrategic reality of the pipeline.

ar/jsi (AFP, Reuters)