NATO grants Zelenskyy ‘security victory’

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy didn’t get all he wanted out of the NATO summit, namely more definitive assurances of membership, but he hardly left Lithuania empty-handed.

Zelenskyy received fresh pledges of weapons and ammunition to fight Russia’s invasion along with longer-term security commitments from the West on Wednesday, when he met with President Joe Biden and other world leaders as the military alliance concluded its two-day gathering in Vilnius.

“The Ukrainian delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for our country, for our people, for our children,” Zelenskyy said while flanked by Biden and the heads of other Group of Seven nations.

The alliance also unveiled the new NATO-Ukraine Council, a forum designed to facilitate consultations and meetings involving Ukraine and the 31 member nations.

A frustrated Zelenskyy had said Tuesday that NATO’s unwillingness to provide a timeline for membership − or even for a formal invitation to join − was “unprecedented and absurd.” The NATO communique issued Tuesday did reflect strong support for Ukraine joining the alliance after the war is over.

On Wednesday, Zelenskyy expressed gratitude while adding that a membership invitation would be “optimum.” He also thanked Biden for the billions of dollars in U.S. aid Ukraine has received, saying, “you spend this money for our lives.”

At a news conference alongside Zelenskyy, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “Today we meet as equals. I look forward to the day we meet as allies.”

Zelenskyy’s anger over ‘absurd’ lack ofZelenskyy’s anger over ‘absurd’ lack of timeline jars NATO summit: Live Ukraine updates


∎Russia is “bullying” Ukraine and believes it can still achieve some of its goals by military means, leaving little room for negotiations, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Radio Svoboda. Hence, “so far, the path to victory is purely military,” Kuleba said.

∎Zelenskyy defended his country’s use of cluster munitions, saying “we are defending ourselves.”

UN proposal to extend grain deal may reconnect Russia to SWIFT

The United Nations, which helped broker a deal that lifted a Russian Black Sea blockade and allowed Ukraine to export its grain, has proposed connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system in exchange for extending the agreement, Reuters reported.

The Kremlin has threatened to pull out of the Black Sea grain initiative, which is due for renewal Monday, arguing it doesn’t benefit from the deal because sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine have presented obstacles to selling its agricultural products.

Russia is demanding that its agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, be reconnected to SWIFT, from which it was cut off in June 2022 as part of the sanctions. Reuters reported the European Union is considering a reconnection specifically for grain and fertilizer transactions.

Inviting Ukraine now not in NATO’s interests, experts say

Mary Kate Schneider, director of global studies at Loyola University Maryland, says it’s not surprising Zelenskyy was frustrated by the communique. But she said a NATO offer of admission now would limit Ukraine’s incentive to strengthen its democratic institutions, an area in which “the country has much work to do.” Institutional reforms would stall, she said.

She added that Russia would have no reason to negotiate an end to the war and might intensify its offensives, causing “as much pain and destruction as possible.”

“As long as NATO membership remains attractive to Ukraine, NATO maintains the upper hand in both its relationship with Ukraine and its dealings with Russia,” Schneider told USA TODAY.

Zev Faintuch, senior intelligence analyst at the international security firm Global Guardian, said that while timelines might work well in other areas of policy, NATO’s larger powers needed to ensure “their hands don’t get tied behind their backs.” The U.S., Germany and others need the ability to adjust course as the global landscape changes, he said.

“At least for now, this is an attritional war,” Faintuch told USA TODAY. “Ukraine needs continued NATO support to continue fighting. And NATO is cementing its support without drastically escalating the conflict.”

The White House said Wednesday that Ukraine still needs to make reforms to meet NATO standards. But National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told ABC’s Good Morning America that all 31 alliance members agree Ukraine’s future is in NATO.

A different perspective: Zelenskyy’s in trouble

Sean McFate, a professor at Syracuse University and senior fellow at the nonpartisan Atlantic Council think tank, thinks Zelenskyy is in trouble.

McFate, author of “The New Rules of War: How America Can Win — Against Russia, China, and Other Threats,” said Zelenskyy kept pushing NATO countries for increasingly sophisticated weapons on the promise that Ukraine would have a decisive spring offensive.

“When the offensive happened, it was summer and failing,” McFate said. “NATO is not impressed, and he’s lost a lot of political capital.” He described Zelenskyy’s demands as “poor strategic judgment.”

Russia counters NATO summit with drone assault

A series of Russian drone strikes conducted across Ukraine on Tuesday likely came as a response to the NATO summit, a Washington-based think tank says.

Ukrainian forces, claiming to shoot down 26 of the 28 drones, said Russia appeared to be targeting a crucial grain terminal in Odesa. The terminal has been the outlet for Ukraine grain shipments under terms of a deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N.

The Institute for the Study of War says Russia may be threatening the Black Sea grain deal to send a message to the deal’s original broker, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that his recent statement of support for Ukraine’s NATO membership “is not appreciated” by the Kremlin.

Zelenskyy defends use of cluster bombsZelenskyy defends use of cluster bombs, pushes for NATO membership, ahead of Biden meeting

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