All eyes were on President Joe Biden today as he met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy before delivering a keynote speech on the final day of the NATO summit — a meeting and remarks that come after the Ukrainian president lashed out over the lack of a timeline for his country's integration into the alliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg may have dampened Ukrainian outrage when, standing alongside Zelenskyy in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, he announced a three-part package aimed at bringing Kyiv closer to the alliance.
While Zelenskyy welcomed the agreement, he said an invitation to NATO membership would have been better.
Biden delivered a speech at Vilnius University before heading to Helsinki Wednesday night, where he will celebrate NATO's expansion, with Finland as its newest member.
What to know about the NATO summit
- Wednesday was the final day of the summit, with Biden delivering a key speech before leaving Vilnius and heading to Finland where he'll stay overnight.
- Biden acknowledged Ukraine's frustration over not being offered a clear timeline for NATO membership during a meeting with Zelenskyy.
- Biden also vowed to support Ukraine for "as long as that takes" as the U.S. and other allies promised new individual agreements to help ensure the eastern European country's long-term security.
- Allies agreed to a three-part package aimed at "bringing Ukraine closer to NATO" and easing the country's path to membership.
- Denmark's defense minister said yesterday that his country and 10 other NATO allies have agreed to train the Ukrainian air force in the use of F-16 fighter jets.
- Biden skipped a NATO dinner to prepare for his speech today and other official business.
Biden arrives in Finland
Air Force One landed in Finland shortly after 3 p.m. ET, 10:01 p.m. local time.
Biden was greeted at the Helsinki airport by the U.S. ambassador to Finland, the Finnish ambassador to the U.S. and other Finnish officials. He'll remain in Finland overnight.
Air Force One departs for Finland
Biden has departed on Air Force One for Finland, the final leg of his European trip.
Tomorrow, he's expected to hold a meeting and a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki. He leaves Finland for Washington tomorrow night.
Finland joined NATO in April, becoming the newest member of the alliance. Sweden is expected to join soon.
Sens. Kaine, Rubio push bill that would block a U.S. president from withdrawing from NATO
Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced legislation that would block a U.S. president from withdrawing from the NATO alliance without Senate approval or an act of Congress.
The bill would require the president to seek the advice and consent of the Senate "before suspending, terminating, or withdrawing U.S. membership in NATO," according to a press release.
"If a U.S. President attempts to leave NATO without Senate approval or an Act of Congress, the bill prohibits any funding from being used to do so and also authorizes Congressional Legal Counsel to challenge the Administration in court," it said.
While he served as president, Donald Trump publicly lambasted the alliance and reportedly floated the idea repeatedly of withdrawing from NATO.
Biden vows U.S. and allies ‘will not waver’ in defense of Ukraine
Biden promised Ukraine that its Western partners would not back away from its defense in a speech today following two days of high-stakes meetings with leaders at a NATO summit.
Speaking on a bright evening, Biden vowed that “the defense of freedom is not the work of a day or a year. It’s the calling of our lifetime — of all time.”
“We are steeled for the struggle ahead,” the president added. Of Ukraine’s partners, he said, “Our unity will not falter, I promise you.”
The event in Vilnius proved a test of Biden’s promise upon taking office to repair America’s international relationships, which include NATO, the 31-country mutual defense pact forged in the aftermath of World War II. Top of the agenda was Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has raged on NATO’s doorstep for close to 18 months.
“We will not waver. I mean that,” Biden continued. “Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for freedom today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”
Key GOP lawmakers urge Biden to send Ukraine long-range missiles 'without delay'
Republican leaders on the foreign policy committees in Congress called on the Biden administration to send a new long-range missile system to Ukraine in a statement today, a day after France vowed to provide Ukraine some of its own supply.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in the statement that France’s move “should prompt the Biden Administration to transfer ATACMS without delay,” referring to Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as “attack 'ems.”
France's move comes after the United Kingdom sent Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine in May, the release noted, saying those missiles "have proven effective in providing Ukraine with a deep-strike capability."
“It is time for the Biden administration to stop leading from behind," the senators said in the statement.
The U.S. missiles have a range of nearly 200 miles and could in theory be used to strike mainland Russia or the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also recently endorsed sending the missiles to Ukraine, but the Pentagon has said the U.S. has no plans to offer the weapons, citing limited supply.
"Right now, we're not provided the ATACMs," Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in March.
Zelenskyy says the meeting with Biden was 'powerful'
Zelenskyy said he had a "very good, powerful" meeting with Biden.
"The meeting was at least twice as long as planned, and it was as meaningful as it needed to be," he said on Twitter. "If the protocol had not stopped the meeting, we would have talked even longer."
The Ukrainian president said they discussed long-term support, weapons, politics and NATO.
Leaders pose for 'family photo'
World leaders at the NATO summit stood for today's "family photo" after announcing a joint declaration of support for Ukraine.
Biden acknowledges Ukrainian ‘frustration’ after NATO offers no clear timeline to membership
Biden acknowledged “frustration I can only imagine” at the start of a meeting with Zelenskyy, more than 15 years after NATO promised Kyiv a path to future membership.
The president said Washington "is doing everything we can to get you what you need as rapidly as we will get it to you," while Ukraine, with its ultimate ask out of reach, clamors for more munitions.
“I just want you to know it’s real,” he added.
Transatlantic leaders gathering in Vilnius this week for the summit doused Ukraine's hopes of joining the defense pact in the near term. Instead, leaders vowed to forge individual security agreements with Ukraine that would bolster its defense against Russia.
Still, the alliance promised a future path for the Eastern European nation, stating in a formal communique that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO.”
G-7 issues joint declaration of support for Ukraine
The G-7 leaders published a joint declaration of support for Ukraine that said they were starting negotiations with the war-torn country to formalize support. It includes vows to do the following:
- Ensure Ukrainian forces can defend the country through military, training, intelligence and cyber support.
- Help Ukraine's economy, including through reconstruction and recovery.
- Provide technical and financial support and assist Ukraine in putting a reform agenda in place.
The declaration also said Ukraine is committed to contributing to security, continuing implementation of anti-corruption reforms and strengthening democratic civilian control of the military.
"This effort will be taken forward while Ukraine pursues a pathway toward future membership in the Euro-Atlantic community," the declaration said.
Biden promises to support Ukraine 'as long as that takes'
Biden, standing with leaders of the G-7 and Zelenskyy, announced new progress toward security aid for Kyiv after two days of high-level meetings here.
Praising the "much needed" framework, Biden said the allies would not wait for Ukraine to join NATO before cementing new commitments and invited other nations to join.
“The outcome of the NATO summit in Vilnius is a very much needed and meaningful success for Ukraine,” Biden said.
The U.S. and other allies have promised to shepherd new individual agreements with Ukraine that will help ensure its long-term security. The agreements will be negotiated individually by countries, outside of NATO’s parameters.
Hanging over the summit has been the question of Ukraine’s path to NATO membership.
“All our allies agree Ukraine’s future lies in NATO,” Biden said, delivering a hopeful message for Kyiv even as tangible steps to membership remain out of reach.
Biden said he talked with Zelenskyy about guarantees the U.S. can provide as Ukraine awaits “support that would last long into the future.”
“We’re going to be there as long as that takes,” he promised.
Zelenskyy calls for 'specifics' on conditions of NATO invitation
Zelenskyy said the "absolute majority" of Ukrainians expect "specifics" about conditions the country must meet to receive an invitation to join the NATO alliance.
"We perceive them as security conditions," Zelenskyy said in a statement. "We understand that Ukraine cannot become a member of NATO while the war is ongoing. But then it will be our common strength when Ukraine joins the Alliance."
The Ukrainian president also highlighted the need for "effective security guarantees" on the way to NATO membership.
"We now have an appropriate package of guarantees, and I ask you to support and join it," he said. "Such support will give our joint work a much-needed concrete and practical success."
National security adviser: U.S. deserves Ukraine's gratitude for support
Biden’s national security adviser told a Ukrainian activist frustrated that Ukraine wasn’t invited into NATO that the American people deserve “a degree of gratitude” for stepping up to support the country as it battles Russian forces.
In a tense exchange during a public forum on the sideline’s summit, Jake Sullivan was questioned by Daria Kaleniuk, a prominent activist from the Kyiv-based group Anti-Corruption Action Centre. Kaleniuk argued that Ukraine had waited patiently for an invitation for years and asked what specific conditions still must be met.
“What should I tell my son? That President Biden and NATO didn’t invite Ukraine to NATO because he’s afraid of Russia, afraid of Russia losing, afraid of Ukraine winning?” Kaleniuk said. “Should I prepare my son to be a soldier and fight Russians, when he will be 18 years in seven years?”
Sullivan, while praising Kaleniuk for her group’s work, said her insinuations about U.S. motives were “entirely unfounded and unjustified.” He said Biden had made clear he’s not prepared for Ukraine into NATO now because “it would mean that the United States and NATO would be at war with Russia now.”
“The American people have sought in watching and wanting to stand in solidarity with the brave and courageous people of Ukraine, to step up and deliver,” Sullivan replied. “And I think the American people do deserve a degree of gratitude, from us, from the United States, from our government, deserve gratitude for their willingness to step up and from the rest of the world as well, as do every ally and partner that’s supporting it.”
U.S. Mission to NATO: 'Ukraine will never be Russia'
"Ukraine will never be Russia," the U.S. Mission to NATO tweeted. "Ukraine stands sovereign, independent, and firmly in control of its own destiny."
British PM voices support for NATO membership for Ukraine
Trudeau reiterates support for Ukraine in meeting with Zelenskyy
Trudeau reiterated Canada's support for Ukraine in a meeting with Zelenskyy, the Canadian prime minister tweeted.
"One month ago, I sat down with President @ZelenskyyUa in Ukraine to emphasize Canada’s support for the Ukrainian people — and to make sure they know that we’re here for them," Trudeau said. "I reiterated that message during today’s meeting in Lithuania."
Biden will make case for NATO’s ‘vital’ role in Vilnius speech
Biden will seek to boost his image as an international coalition builder in a speech today, following two days of high-stakes meetings with leaders at a NATO summit.
The event in Vilnius was a test of Biden’s promise upon taking office to repair America’s international relationships, which include NATO, a 31-country mutual defense pact forged in the aftermath of World War II. Top of the agenda was Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has raged on NATO’s doorstep for close to 18 months.
A White House official previewed Biden’s remarks at Vilnius University, promising a “memorable” speech that would highlight “the strength of the NATO alliance and how it remains a force for global security and stability.”
“The president will talk about how the widespread support for Ukraine is reflective of the value of our alliances and partnerships, which he has revitalized since taking office,” said Amanda Sloat, White House National Security Council Europe director.
Ukrainian defense minister hails agreements with Sweden
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov posted on Twitter today that Ukraine signed an agreement with Sweden on cooperation in defense procurement.
“The document provides great opportunities for our Armed Forces and for Swedish companies,” he said in the tweet.
In earlier posts, Reznikov also announced an agreement on the “exchange and mutual protection of classified information” with Sweden, and shared his confidence that “Ukraine will soon join the NATO family.”
“Thanks to our people’s courage, we have created alliances and coalitions,” he said. “We have united the world in this fight against darkness. And we will win!”
Zelenskyy thanks Biden for decision to send cluster munitions
Zelenskyy took a moment to thank Biden for his decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite widespread criticism of the plan.
“I know it was a challenge in the U.S., in Congress, and there are people who don’t share this support,” he said.
“Russia is using cluster munitions all the time on our land … killing our people,” he added.
Ukraine, he said, would use cluster munitions “for military purposes only, only on temporarily-occupied territories of Ukraine.”
'NATO needs us no less than the other way around,' Zelenskyy says
Zelenskyy has said he is certain that Ukraine "will be in NATO" once Russia's invasion of the country ends.
Speaking alongside Stoltenberg earlier, he said he also believes "NATO needs us no less than the other way around," however.
The Ukrainian leader did not expand on the comment, but he said Kyiv would “do everything to have the same understanding and vision with the U.S. on this.”
Photo: Biden and Zelenskyy greet each other at NATO summit
Biden shakes hands with Zelenskyy at the NATO summit in Vilnius today.
G-7 security guarantees for Ukraine could have 'very negative consequences,' Russia says
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said plans by leading industrial nations to give security guarantees to Ukraine will mean "security risks for Russia."
Peskov said Group of Seven providing any security guarantees to Ukraine was "extremely misguided and potentially very dangerous."
"Because by providing any security guarantees to Ukraine, these countries actually ignore the international principle of the indivisibility of security," he said. "That is, by providing security guarantees to Ukraine, they encroach on the security of the Russian Federation."
"This is impossible. This is fraught with very, very negative consequences in the medium, long and even short term," Peskov said. He said Moscow felt “very negative” about the topic of Ukraine joining NATO.
1st NATO-Ukraine Council meeting begins
The first NATO-Ukraine Council meeting has started.
Stoltenberg kicked off the gathering, saying he was humbled by the sacrifices Ukrainians have made in the fight against Russian forces.
"Today we meet as equals and I look forward to the day we meet as allies," he said.
The meeting comes after Stoltenberg and Zelenskyy held a joint news conference announcing a package aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to NATO.
Staff place the Ukrainian national flag next to the flags of other member states during the NATO Summit in Vilnius:
Zelenskyy welcomes package, but says invitation to NATO would have been 'ideal'
Zelenskyy welcomed the three-part package aimed at creating a smoother path to NATO membership for Ukraine.
Speaking at the news conference alongside Stoltenberg, Zelenskyy said the results of the NATO summit were “good,” but said an invitation to NATO would have been more “ideal.”
Still, he said he saw “concrete” efforts aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to NATO.
Zelenskyy said he understood that some did not want to discuss Ukraine joining NATO right now “because they don’t want a world war.” However, he said this was the first clear signal that Ukraine would be in NATO when conditions allow.
3-part package to bring Ukraine 'closer to NATO' agreed upon, Stoltenberg says
A three-part package aimed at "bringing Ukraine closer to NATO" and easing the country's path to membership with the alliance has been agreed upon, Stoltenberg said during a joint news conference with Zelenskyy.
Under the plan, Ukraine's path to membership with the alliance will change from a two-step process to a one-step process, with the removal of the requirement of an "action plan," Stoltenberg said.
The package also includes a multiyear program of practical assistance and the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Council, which Stoltenberg has previously discussed.
"Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before," he said.
'We are preparing the foundation,' Zelenskyy's chief of staff says
Zelenskyy and his team are in Vilnius to lay down the foundation and understand security guarantees for their country on its way to NATO, his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said today.
Yermak said that foundation can be expanded into bilateral security agreements with states willing to provide those guarantees.
"I hope that today in Vilnius will be an important stage in our many months of work with partners," he added.
Zelenskyy and Stoltenberg will hold a joint news conference in about 10 minutes following a bilateral meeting.
Representatives have gathered at the NATO summit in Vilnius:
Zelenskyy meets with NATO leaders, including Canada's Trudeau
It's been a busy morning of meetings for Zelenskyy, with the Ukrainian president meeting with a string of NATO leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"We are discussing security guarantees for Ukraine on its way to NATO — we have Canada’s understanding, the world’s understanding will follow, and we are preparing an important security victory for Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in a tweet about his meeting with Trudeau.
Zelenskyy is expected to meet with Biden later today.
China hits back at NATO criticism and vows to defend its rights
HONG KONG — China hit back at NATO’s assertion that Beijing is a “systemic challenge” and that its “ambitions and coercive policies” threaten the U.S.-led military alliance’s interests, security and values.
In a communiqué released yesterday, NATO leaders said China “employs a broad range of political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticized the NATO statement today as “full of Cold War thinking and ideological bias.” A statement yesterday from the Chinese mission to the European Union said the communiqué “disregards basic facts, wantonly distorts China’s position and policies, and deliberately discredits China.”
The mission warned that China would resolutely defend its rights and interests and strongly opposed any expansion into the Asia-Pacific region by NATO, which is reportedly considering opening a liaison office in Tokyo. There was no mention of establishing a Tokyo office in the communiqué.
Biden and G-7 allies eye individual security pacts with Ukraine
Biden and G-7 leaders will make an announcement alongside Zelenskyy today outlining long-term commitments “to help Ukraine build a military that can defend itself and deter future attack,” the White House said.
Through a series of bilateral negotiations aimed at reaching security commitments between individual countries and Kyiv, the process “will focus on ensuring Ukraine has a sustainable fighting force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring Russian aggression in the future,” Amanda Sloat, White House National Security Council senior director for Europe, told reporters today.
“This multilateral declaration will send a significant signal to Russia that time is not on its side,” Sloat added.
Biden has ruled out a pathway to membership in NATO for Ukraine while the war is ongoing and with political and security reforms pending.
Biden's speech to focus on support for Ukraine, global challenges
Biden is expected to deliver remarks at Vilnius University before departing Lithuania's capital later today.
The president's speech is expected to focus on how the United States and its allies are "supporting Ukraine, defending democratic values, and taking action to address global challenges," according to the president's schedule.
Zelenskyy lays out priorities for Day 2 of summit
Zelenskyy laid out three priorities for the second day of the NATO summit in Vilnius after no concrete promises about membership in the alliance were made yesterday.
"The first is new support packages for our army on the battlefield," Zelenskyy said today in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
"The second, I believe, is an invitation to NATO," he said. "We need an understanding that we have this invitation for when the security situation allows it."
Finally, Zelenskyy said, he hoped to discuss security guarantees for Ukraine on the way to NATO.
Biden to meet with Zelenskyy ahead of big speech
Biden is expected to meet with Zelenskyy before delivering a speech on the final day of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
The meeting comes after a NATO communiqué said the alliance would support Ukraine in forging a path toward joining its ranks, but offered no new timeline for a future invitation.
Biden will later deliver his speech at Vilnius University before heading to Helsinki, where he will celebrate the expansion of the alliance, with Finland as its newest member.