Biden insists denying Ukraine prez’s claim that NATO ‘confirmed’ his country can join (audio)


President Biden directly denied (once more) Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s claim that NATO leaders agreed to allow his country to join the military alliance.

Biden refused to give a “yes” or “no” to Ukraine joining NATO while at the alliance’s annual summit in Belgium.

“It depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is, they still have to clean up corruption. The fact is, they have to meet other criteria to get into the action plan. And so it’s, you know, school’s out on that question. It remains to be seen,” Biden said at a press conference that was over two hours late in starting and lasted just over 16 minutes.

Biden added: “It will not just depend on me whether or not we conclude that Ukraine can become part of NATO. It will depend on the alliance and how they vote.”

Shortly before the press conference, Zelensky tweeted that NATO “confirmed” that Ukraine could join the anti-Russia bloc, which commits members to collective defense.

“Commend @NATO partners’ understanding of all the risks and challenges we face. NATO leaders confirmed that [Ukraine] will become a member of the Alliance & the #MAP is an integral part of the membership process. {Ukraine] deserves due appreciation of its role in ensuring Euro-Atlantic security,” he tweeted.

The MAP, or Membership Action Plan, referred to in Zelensky’s tweet defines candidate status to join the alliance, which emerged in the Cold War to counter the Soviet Union. Three other ex-Soviet countries are members of NATO.

But moments after the tweet, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken denied that anything had changed when a Reuters reporters asked him in Belgium.

“Nothing new – nothing changed – this goes back to 2008,” Blinken said, according to reporter Ed O’Keefe of CBS News. The top US diplomat was referring to a 2008 NATO conference at which the alliance indicated Ukraine might eventually join. Since that time, Ukraine has not received a Membership Action Plan that would put the country on course to do so.

Biden did say at the press conference that the US and other NATO allies “affirmed our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Ukraine is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in Europe and its politics have vacillated between pro-Russian and pro-Western factions since the Cold War.

In 2014, protesters chased out pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych. His ouster sparked counter protests across Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking south and east. Russia annexed Crimea after a disputed referendum and two Russia-backed breakaway republics govern parts of eastern Ukraine.

Zelensky said in a Monday group interview with news outlets in Kiev that he wanted Biden to commit to accepting Ukraine as a member before he meets Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland.

“If we are talking about NATO and the MAP, I would really like to get [from Biden] specifics – yes or no,” Zelensky said.

Whether the White House supports NATO membership for Ukraine has been the subject of mixed messages from Biden aides.

The White House last month made a rare foreign policy pivot by simply crossing out the words in a press briefing transcript that had expressed support for Ukraine joining NATO.

info: nypost / NBC