VILNIUS — President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has welcomed a long-term security “framework” for Ukraine that is to be offered by the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized economies, but stressed it isn’t a replacement for a clear timetable from NATO for membership in the military alliance.
The G7 announced the upcoming arrangement in the wake of Kyiv’s disappointment after a NATO summit in Lithuania issued a vaguely worded statement saying the 31-member defense organization “will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the alliance when allies agree and conditions are met.”
In return Ukraine, would pledge improved governance measures, including through judicial, economic reforms and enhanced transparency.
“We can state that the results of this summit are good, but should we receive an invitation, then that would be the optimum,” Zelenskiy told a joint news conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius.
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“The best guarantee for Ukraine is to be in NATO,” Zelenskiy, who met with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the summit later on July 12, told reporters.
Standing next to the Ukrainian president, Stoltenberg said that, despite the lack of an invitation to join, Ukraine “is now closer to NATO than ever before,” adding, “I look forward to the day we meet as allies.”
“We must ensure that when this war ends, there are credible arrangements in place for Ukraine’s security, so that history does not repeat itself,” he said.
The G7 framework, announced in a statement by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, lays the groundwork for each nation in the group to negotiate agreements to help Ukraine bolster its military over the long term.
It will provide more defense equipment, increase and accelerate intelligence sharing, bolster support for cyber and hybrid threat defenses, expand training programs and military exercises, and develop Ukraine’s industrial base. It will also allow for long-term bilateral security agreements between Kyiv and the G7 countries.
“Supporting their progress on the pathway to NATO membership, coupled with formal, multilateral, and bilateral agreements and the overwhelming support of NATO members will send a strong signal to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and return peace to Europe,” Sunak added.
Zelenskiy welcomed the fresh pledges of weapons and ammunition to fight Russia’s invasion and the offer of longer-term security commitments from the West.
“The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for Ukraine, for our country, for our people, for our children,” he said, flanked by Biden and other leaders from the G7.
“Our support will last long into the future,” Biden said. “We’re going to help Ukraine build a strong, capable defense.”
Biden and Zelenskiy met separately along with their advisers, and Biden told the Ukrainian president that “the United States is doing everything we can to get you what you need.”
Zelenskiy thanked Biden, saying that “you spend this money for our lives.”
It was a marked shift in tone from a day earlier, when Zelenskiy said it was “unprecedented and absurd” to avoid setting a timeline for Ukraine to join NATO.
On the final day of the NATO summit, the alliance launched a new forum for deepening ties with Ukraine, known as the NATO-Ukraine Council. It’s intended to serve as a permanent body where the alliance’s 31 members and Ukraine can hold consultations and call for meetings in emergency situations.
The Kremlin immediately lashed out at the security agreement, saying it is “a mistake.”
“We consider this extremely ill-judged and potentially very dangerous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow, adding that “by providing security guarantees to Ukraine, they’re infringing on Russia’s security.”
Biden and his NATO counterparts will also hold talks with Zelenskiy in the new NATO-Ukraine Council, a permanent consultative body for the 31 allies and Ukraine.
Zelenskiy said earlier on July 12 that his priorities at the meeting were to receive more support for soldiers fighting on the ground in Ukraine and to exact security guarantees from allies. He added that he also still hopes for an invitation.
“More weapons for our warriors, more protection of life for the whole of Ukraine!” he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace raised eyebrows by suggesting that Ukraine should appear more grateful for Western military support and not treat allies like “Amazon.”
In comments cited by multiple British media outlets, Wallace said he had heard “grumbles” from lawmakers in Washington that “we’re not Amazon.” He agreed with the statements, saying he had told the Ukrainians the same.
British Prime Minister Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, downplayed the remarks. “I think you have heard from President Zelenskiy repeatedly…about his gratitude to the people of the United Kingdom for their support and their generosity,” Blain said.
With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Vilnius, Reuters, AP, and AFP