The Joe Biden administration has told Ukraine that the United States “deserves a degree of gratitude” for its billions of dollars in military support to the war-torn nation.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan issued a thinly veiled warning to Kiev a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launched a tirade on social media about what he called an “absurd” delay. in offering his country a path to full NATO membership.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Lithuania to push for more military support for his country.
Sullivan angrily rejected claims by Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Daria Kaleniuk that the president “was afraid of Russia” by failing to set a timetable for Ukraine to join the Brussels-based military alliance.
The activist also infamously ambushed former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in Warsaw last year, berating him for NATO’s failure to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Speaking at a side event to the two-day NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden’s top aide Sullivan dismissed his criticism, saying “there have been a lot of conspiracy theories that just aren’t based on any reality.”
“The United States of America has stepped up to provide a tremendous amount of capability to help ensure Ukraine’s brave soldiers have the ammunition, air defense, infantry, combat vehicles, mine clearance equipment and much more to be able to defend effectively against attack from Russia and take back territory as well.
“I think the American people deserve a degree of gratitude from the United States government for their willingness to step up and from the rest of the world as well.”
In a thinly veiled jab at Zelensky’s criticism of his Western allies, Sullivan said some of the charges leveled against the United States were “totally baseless and unjustified.”
The United States is by far the largest donor of military support to Ukraine, offering more than $46 billion worth of hardware to kyiv, according to data from a respected German think tank.
Most weapons shipped to Ukraine are also made in the US, boosting jobs in the country’s key defense sector.
The second-biggest donor, by contrast, is Britain, which has offered just over $6 billion, according to the Ukraine Support Tracker from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
Zelensky is holding talks with several key NATO allies on Wednesday in Lithuania, where he is seeking more military support for Ukraine’s army.
Last week he won a commitment from the United States for cluster munitions that could inflict significant damage on Russian forces.
Washington’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs, banned in much of the world, has proved highly controversial.
Biden admitted that it had been “a difficult decision”, which humanitarian groups strongly condemned.
Sullivan said on Sunday that Kiev had committed to using the munitions only on Ukrainian soil “where they have the greatest incentive to limit the impact on civilians, because it is Ukrainian citizens who would be at risk.”
Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the prospect of the war-torn nation joining the security alliance, will be high on the agenda of today’s NATO summit.
Amanda Sloat, senior director for European affairs at the US National Security Council, defended the summit’s decisions.
“I agree that the statement is unprecedented, but I view it in a positive light,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Sloat noted that Ukraine will not need to submit a “membership action plan” as it seeks to join NATO, a key step in the process involving advice and assistance for countries seeking to join, but added that “there are still reforms in the governance and security sector. that are going to be needed’ in Ukraine.
Symbols of support for Ukraine are common in Vilnius, where the country’s blue and yellow flags hang from buildings and are taped inside windows.
Zelenksky delivered a fiery speech in the city center on Tuesday night, saying that Ukraine would strengthen the military alliance.
But there has been more caution within the summit itself, especially from Biden, who has explicitly said that he does not believe Ukraine is ready to join NATO. He worries that the country’s democracy is unstable and that corruption remains too entrenched.
Under Article 5 of the NATO charter, members are required to defend each other from attack, which could quickly bring the US and other nations into direct combat with Russia.
But it is not automatic and the clause requires the approval of all NATO countries to activate.
That has happened only once since NATO was founded in 1949; in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan.
The United States and Britain used the meeting in Vilnius to tell all NATO allies to meet the agreed spending of 2 percent of GDP on defense.
Only 11 countries reached that goal: the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia and Slovakia.
But Poland recently announced it would increase defense spending by up to 4 percent by the end of this year in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.