From left: Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Japan's Prime Minster Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the Nato summit, in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

VILNIUS: The United States and global allies unveiled new security assurances for Ukraine at a Nato summit on Wednesday, designed to bolster the country’s defences against Russia over the long haul while Kyiv strives for membership of the alliance.

The prospect of long-term protection from members of the world’s most powerful military bloc comes a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky decried as “absurd” a refusal to offer an invite or timetable for Ukraine’s entry into NATO.

Ukraine has been pushing for rapid membership while fighting a Russian invasion unleashed in February 2022 that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.

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Instead, a declaration by the G7 grouping of the world’s most industrialised countries launched a framework for bilateral negotiations to provide military and financial support, intelligence sharing and a promise of immediate steps if Russia should attack again.

“Our support will last long into the future. It’s a powerful statement of our commitment to Ukraine,” President Joe Biden said alongside Zelensky and leaders of the G7, which is made up of the US, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy and Britain.

“We’re going to be there as long as that takes.” Swallowing his disappointment over the lack of a membership timetable, Zelensky called the outcome a “meaningful success” and followed a flurry of announcements of military aid for Kyiv.

“Today there are security guarantees for Ukraine on the way to Nato,” he said. “The Ukraine delegation is bringing home a significant security victory for Ukraine.” Nevertheless, Zelensky pressed for more, and said he would raise Ukraine’s need for long-range weapons at a meeting with Biden at the summit.

“We can state that the results of the summit are good, but if there was an invitation, they would be ideal,” Zelensky added.

At a bilateral meeting, Biden promised Zelensky the United States was doing everything it could to meet Ukraine’s needs and acknowledged Zelensky’s “frustration” about the scale and speed at which he was receiving support.

Bad news

“Your resilience and your resolve has been a model for the whole world to see,” Biden said. “I look forward to the day when we’re having the meeting celebrating your official, official membership in Nato.”

“The bad news for you is, we’re not going anywhere. You’re stuck with us,” Biden joked, prompting laughter from Zelenskiy.

Britain, France, Germany and the US have been negotiating with Kyiv for weeks over a multilateral text that would create a broad international framework, encompassing elements including modern advanced military equipment, such as fighter jets, training, intelligence-sharing and cyberdefence.

In return Ukraine, would pledge improved governance measures, including through judicial, economic reforms and enhanced transparency.

Speaking earlier alongside Zelensky, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine was closer to the alliance than ever before, and brushed aside new warnings from Russia about the consequences of supporting Ukraine.

“Ukraine has the right to choose its own path”, Stoltenberg said, adding: “It is not for Moscow to decide”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the security arrangements for Ukraine were not designed to be a substitute for full Nato membership and said the commitments at the summit marked a high point for the West’s support for Kyiv.

On Wednesday, Zelensky held bilateral meetings with the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, Japan and the Netherlands on the sidelines of the second day of the Nato summit in Vilnius to secure more arms for his counteroffensive.

“More weapons for our warriors, more protection of life for the whole of Ukraine! We will bring new important defence tools to Ukraine,” he said on Twitter.