Ukraine and Sweden top Biden’s agenda at NATO summit

By Nandita Bose and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday that President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders will discuss at next week’s summit the steps Ukraine needs to take to join NATO and that Kiev has further reforms to be made, as she battles the Russian invaders.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Ukraine would not be elected a NATO member at the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, but he encouraged Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to attend to discuss the question.

“The NATO summit will address the issue of NATO’s relationship with Ukraine, both the issue of its path to future membership and the issue of a continued partnership that has existed for several years,” he said. he declared.

He said NATO allies were discussing whether Ukraine had gone beyond the need for a membership action plan. As part of the MAP process followed by other former communist countries in Eastern Europe, candidates must demonstrate that they meet political, economic and military criteria and that they are capable of contributing militarily to the operations of NATO.

Biden has repeatedly said “there is an open door, there is a path for Ukraine, and Ukraine needs to undertake additional reforms” to move to NATO membership, said Sullivan. “That remains true today,” he said.

Ukraine hopes to receive a clear signal on its membership prospects in Vilnius. The United States announced on Friday that it would provide cluster munitions for use in its counteroffensive against Russia.

Ukraine plans to abandon conscription and switch to a professional army after the war with Russia to bring kyiv closer to NATO standards, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Thursday.

Sweden, whose NATO membership has been blocked by Turkey, will also be high on Biden’s agenda in Vilnius. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said Stockholm is home to members of militant groups, including supporters of Sweden’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party which he accuses of staging protests and funding terror groups.

Sullivan said Sweden would eventually become a NATO member despite Turkey’s opposition. That could happen at next week’s summit, but maybe not before, he said.

He said Biden would discuss Sweden with Erdogan at some point during the summit but did not know the format of the talks.

Biden leaves for London on Sunday, the first leg of a three-country trip centered on the NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital. The trip ends with a visit to Helsinki to welcome Finland’s accession to NATO.

While in London on Monday, Biden will meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and discuss climate initiatives with King Charles at Windsor Castle after skipping the king’s coronation in May.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)

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