US President Joe Biden told President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday that he looks forward to the day he can welcome the war-torn country to NATO, aiming to take the sting out of recent comments that now was not the time for Ukrainian membership in the military alliance.
“Your resilience and your resolve has been a model for the whole world to see,” Biden told Zelenskyy ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit meeting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Biden said he understood the Ukrainian leader’s frustration at getting the help he needs quickly enough.
“I promise you the United States is doing everything we can to get you what you need,” Biden said in the presence of reporters.
“I look forward to the day when we’re having the meeting celebrating your official, official membership in NATO,” Biden said.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday that Biden would offer Zelenskyy long-range missiles when they met.
Before he left the US for the NATO trip, Biden told CNN in an interview that he thought the time was not yet right for Ukraine to join the NATO alliance. If Ukraine were to become a member now, Biden said then, “we’re in a war with Russia.”
Biden was asked by a reporter on Wednesday how soon after the war he would like Ukraine to join NATO and responded “an hour and 20 minutes.”
During the NATO summit, the G7 grouping of the world’s most industrialized countries pledged military and financial support, intelligence sharing and a promise of immediate steps if Russia should attack Ukraine again.
Zelenskyy, who had said on Tuesday it would be “absurd” if Ukraine was not offered membership, told Biden he wanted to thank “all Americans” for the billions of dollars in aid his country had received.
“You have to know that you spend this money” for more than just fighting, he said. “You spend this money for our lives.”