Biden Defends Cluster Munitions Decision, Says 'No' to Ukraine Joining NATO—for Now

Joe Biden appears on Fareed Zakaria GPS 7-9-23. (Credit: CNN)

President Biden appeared on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” Sunday and ruled out admitting Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—at least for now.

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The president leaves for Europe Sunday and will attend a NATO summit in Lithuania where the top topics will include the Russia-Ukraine war as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s push to join NATO.

Asked if the war-torn Eastern European country should be admitted to the alliance, Biden said he didn’t think the time was now:

I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO. But here’s the deal. I spent, as you know, a great deal of time trying to hold NATO together, because I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective from the time he launched 185,000 troops into Ukraine, and that was to break NATO. He was confident, in my view and many of the intelligence community, he was confident he could break NATO.

He thinks that while Ukraine is in the middle of a war, we can’t really discuss bringing the country into the bloc because then, effectively, we’d be at war:

So, holding NATO together is really critical. I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war. For example, if you did that, then we — I — and I mean what I say. We’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory.

It’s a commitment that we have all made, no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in a war. We’re in war with Russia, if that were the case. So, I think we have to lay out a path for the rational path for Russia — or — excuse me — for Ukraine to be able to qualify to get into NATO.

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But Biden left the door open for the future:

…when the very first time I met with Putin two years ago in Geneva, and he said, “I want commitments on no Ukraine in NATO,” I said: “We’re not going to do that, because it’s an open-door policy. We’re not going to shut anybody out.”

NATO is a process that takes some time to meet all the qualifications, and from democratization to a whole range of other issues. So, in the meantime, though, I have spoken with Zelenskyy at length about this…

And so I think we can work it out. And — but I think it’s premature to say to call for a vote, in now, because I — there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues.

Biden also discussed the controversial decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, saying, “It was a very difficult decision on my part. And by the way, I discussed this with our allies; I discussed this with our friends up on the Hill. The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”

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Biden being Biden, he also said the United States is “low” on ammunition itself, something that, as my colleague Bonchie reported, he also blurted out to reporters. I’m sure that was music to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s ears.

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