NATO nations agree Ukraine is on “irreversible path” to membership

NATO nation leaders, in a Washington summit declaration released Wednesday, said Ukraine is on an “irreversible path” to NATO membership

The summit declaration, signed by all 32 NATO nations, offers some of the strongest language yet about the organization’s intent to eventually include Ukraine in its membership. 

Ukraine and its protection are a central part of this year’s NATO summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by President Biden. The declaration, which encompasses NATO’s beliefs and goals, says Ukraine “has become increasingly interoperable and politically integrated with the alliance.”

World Leaders Attend NATO Summit In Washington, D.C.
UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer, President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg at the 2024 NATO Summit on July 10, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

“We welcome the concrete progress Ukraine has made since the Vilnius Summit on its required democratic, economic, and security reforms,” the declaration says. “As Ukraine continues this vital work, we will continue to support it on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership.  We reaffirm that we will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.”

However, the alliance’s statement did not offer a specific timeline for membership for Ukraine, which has sought to formalize its ties with Europe and the U.S. When NATO leaders convened one year ago, they affirmed that Ukraine would eventually become a member of the organization. Last year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine had made “good progress” toward membership but needed to do more, including enacting military and democratic reforms. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was critical of last year’s statement.

Mr. Biden, who faces a test of his fitness to be the Democratic nominee, made Ukraine a key focus of his opening speech at the summit. 

Senate US Ukraine
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer escorts Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy along with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell to a medal ceremony on Capitol Hill on July 10, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

John McDonnell / AP

“We know Putin won’t stop at Ukraine. But make no mistake — Ukraine can and will stop Putin,” the president said of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Especially with our full, collective support. They have our full support.” 

Mr. Biden insisted NATO is as important now as it ever was, citing terrorist threats and Russia’s two-year-old war with Ukraine. The president announced a donation of air defense equipment for Ukraine from the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Italy. In the coming months, the U.S. and its partners will provide Ukraine with dozens of additional tactical air defense systems, he said. 

Zelenskyy has been making the most of his time in Washington, meeting with leaders on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Zelenskyy has met with House Speaker Mike Johnson as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he continues to request more funding and supplies to defend his country against Russia’s invasion.

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