The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was designed to help member countries rebuild and bolster security after World War II through something called “collective defense.” In essence, an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members: Everyone in NATO is supposed to rally as if it were their own country being attacked.
For that reason, President Joe Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview broadcast Sunday, it is not yet time to welcome Ukraine—which was invaded by Russia in February 2022—into the North American-European alliance.
“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,” Biden told CNN. “If you did that, then, you know—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’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”
Biden added that NATO should consider a “rational path” for Ukraine to join, and that he previously refused to rule out its membership in conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“But I think it’s premature…to call for a vote…because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” Biden said.
On Friday, his administration announced a new, $800 million military aid package for Ukraine that for the first time includes controversial cluster munitions: explosives launched from the ground or air that release smaller bombs over a large area.
More than 100 countries have banned the weapons, according to NPR, and the Biden administration has previously condemned their use. Biden told CNN it was a “difficult decision” to give them to Ukraine, but he decided to do so because their forces are running out of ammunition.
Ukraine is not the only nation that would benefit from NATO membership and is seeking to join. Sweden’s bid—which, like those of all new members, must be unanimously approved—has been delayed by Hungary and Turkey. Biden told CNN that believes Sweden will ultimately be admitted, perhaps through some quid-pro-quo maneuvering. Biden suggested that helping Turkey modernize its military aircraft could draw out their support.
“What I’m trying to, quite frankly, [is] put together… a little bit of a consortium here,” he explained. “But it’s in play. It’s not done.”