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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

NATO says it will invite Ukraine to join when ‘conditions are met’

U.S. President Joe Biden during a family photo with Allied Heads of State and Government during the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday, July, 11, 2023.

By Lara Jakes, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Steven Erlanger and Victoria Kim

NATO leaders agreed in a joint statement to offer Ukraine an invitation to join, but remained vague on how and when, wording that essentially marked a victory for President Joe Biden, who said before the summit that Ukraine was not ready to be a member.

The alliance’s leaders, meeting at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, had struggled to agree on language about how to describe a timeline and conditions for what everyone agrees will be Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO. The leaders of the 31 member states said in their communiqué that Ukraine would receive an invitation “when allies agree and conditions are met,” and that there would be regular reviews of the country’s progress toward meeting NATO standards in democratization and military integration.

The debate has again exposed differences among Western allies that have emerged throughout the war, with European states closest to Russia pushing for more and faster support for Ukraine and the Biden administration opting for a more deliberate approach — often to Kyiv’s consternation.

The language is considerably weaker than what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has said is necessary amid Russia’s invasion. Earlier Tuesday, the Ukrainian leader had repeated his frustration over the lack of clarity from NATO, calling it “absurd” and adding, “Uncertainty is weakness.”

Later, as he arrived in Vilnius, Zelenskyy appeared to soften his tone, telling a crowd that he had come to Lithuania with “faith in partners” and in a strong NATO that “does not hesitate.”

Here are other developments:

— Zelenskyy will attend a dinner on Tuesday evening with leaders of NATO countries, according to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, and will attend the inaugural meeting on Wednesday of the NATO Ukraine Council, a new group that will give Ukraine an equal voice on key issues alongside full member states. Biden is planning to meet with Zelenskyy on Wednesday, White House officials said.

— For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO countries gave political approval to detailed plans designed to ensure the alliance’s collective military defense against a major attack by a power such as Russia, which upended NATO’s strategic assumptions with its invasion of Ukraine.

— An abrupt shift Monday by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unblocked Sweden’s bid to join NATO, a move that followed intense pressure from the United States and other allies. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said that the president would move forward “in consultation with Congress” with the transfer to Turkey of the F-16 fighter jets it is demanding.

— Russian forces attacked the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with a barrage of drones early Tuesday, all of which were shot down, the city’s military administration said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

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