Ukraine amends statement saying Biden backed NATO membership plan
Jonathan Swan, Dave Lawler June 8. 2021
Photo: Amr Alfiky-Pool/Getty Images
The White House and the Ukrainian government initially sent out conflicting official accounts of Monday’s phone call between President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Why it matters: Ukraine’s government initially reported on its official website that Biden had “highlighted… the importance of providing the Ukrainian state with a NATO Membership Action Plan,” which would put Ukraine on course for membership in the alliance. The White House denied Biden expressed support for such a step on the call.
- “The Ukrainians mischaracterized the statement and corrected the record,” a National Security Council spokesperson told Axios.
- By Monday evening, the Ukrainian government’s readout had been changed to remove the reference to NATO membership for Ukraine.
Flashback: Former President George W. Bush first backed the idea of giving Ukraine a Membership Action Plan — the process through which 11 eastern European countries have joined NATO — in 2008. Thirteen years later, the besieged state is no closer to NATO membership.
- In the meantime, Russia has invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The United States and Europe sent aid to Ukraine but made clear they would not use military force to defend Ukraine from Vladimir Putin.
- Zelensky has made NATO integration a top priority, but progress on that front currently looks unlikely.
Of note: When asked, the White House declined to comment on whether Biden supports the idea of offering Ukraine a NATO Membership Action Plan this year.
Driving the news: During the call on Monday, Biden invited Zelensky to the White House in July.
Between the lines: That announcement came 18 hours after Axios published an interview with Zelensky in which the Ukrainian president criticized Biden’s handling of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and urged Biden to meet with him “at any moment and at any spot on the planet” before seeing Putin.