Biden says war with Russia must end before NATO can consider membership for Ukraine

Jul 9, 2023, 2:30 PM

President Joe Biden speaks with CNN's Fareed Zakaria during a televised interview inside the Roosev...

President Joe Biden speaks with CNN's Fareed Zakaria during a televised interview inside the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 7. Photo credit: Tom Brenner for CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden told CNN in an exclusive interview that Ukraine is not yet ready for NATO membership, saying that Russia’s war in Ukraine needs to end before the alliance can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks.

Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that while discussion of Ukraine’s imminent membership in NATO was premature, the US and its allies in NATO would continue to provide President Volodymyr Zelensky and his forces the security and weaponry they need to try to end the war with Russia.

Biden spoke to Zakaria ahead of his weeklong trip to Europe, which includes a NATO summit in Lithuania where Russia’s war in Ukraine and Zelensky’s push for NATO membership will be among the key issues looming over the gathering.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden said. “For example, if you did that, then, you know – and I mean what I say – we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”

Biden said that he’s spoken to Zelensky at length about the issue, saying that he’s told the Ukrainian president the US would keep providing security and weaponry for Ukraine like it does for Israel while the process plays out.

“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden said, noting that he refused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands before the war for a commitment not to admit Ukraine because the alliance has “an open-door policy.”

“But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” Biden said.

On Friday, the White House announced that the US was sending Ukraine cluster munitions for the first time, a step taken to help bolster Ukraine’s ammunition as it mounts a counteroffensive against Russia. Biden told Zakaria that it was a “difficult decision” to give Ukraine the controversial ammunition, but that he was convinced it was necessary because Ukraine was running out of ammunition.

The NATO meeting also comes as Sweden is seeking to join the Western alliance, a move that has faced resistance from Turkey and Hungary. Biden told Zakaria he was optimistic that Sweden would eventually be admitted to NATO, noting the key holdout, Turkey, is seeking to modernize its F-16 fleet, along with Greece, which has voted to admit Sweden.

“Turkey is looking for modernization of F-16 aircraft. And (Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis in Greece is also looking for some help,” Biden said. “And so, what I’m trying to, quite frankly, put together is a little bit of a consortium here, where we’re strengthening NATO in terms of military capacity of both Greece as well as Turkey, and allow Sweden to come in. But it’s in play. It’s not done.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Biden and Zakaria also discussed other key foreign policy challenges, including China, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Biden said that he’s confident Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to replace the US as the country with the largest economy and military capacity in the world, but he said that he believes the US can have a working relationship with Beijing.

“I think there is a way to resolve, to establish a working relationship with China that benefits them and us,” Biden said. “And the last thing I’ll tell you, I also called him after he had that meeting with the Russians about this new relationship, etc. And I said, ‘This is not a threat. It’s an observation.’ I said, ‘Since Russia went into Ukraine, 600 American corporations have pulled out of Russia. And you’ve told me that your economy depends on investment from Europe and the United States. And be careful. Be careful.’”

Biden said Xi didn’t argue with him and noted that China has “not gone full bore on Russia.”

“He talks about nuclear war being a disaster, there is such a thing as security that’s needed,” Biden said of the Chinese leader. “So, I think there’s a way we can work through this.”

Asked whether he would invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, Biden said that Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was coming soon to the White House for a visit.

In March, Biden criticized Netanyahu for his now-scrapped plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary, a rare public instance where the two allies were publicly at odds.

Biden told Zakaria that he continued to believe a two-state solution was the correct path forward in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and he criticized some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet for their views on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“It’s not all Israel now in the West Bank, all Israel’s problem, but they are a part of the problem, and particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say, ‘We can settle anywhere we want. They have no right to be here, etc.,’” Biden said. “And I think we were talking with them regularly, trying to tamp down what’s going on and hopefully, Bibi will continue to move toward moderation and change.”

Biden also defended his trip to Saudi Arabia last year, telling Zakaria a number of successes came from the visit, such as establishing Israeli overflights over Saudi Arabia. Asked whether the US would provide the Saudis with a defense treaty and civilian nuclear capacity, as Riyadh has requested, Biden said, “We’re a long way from there.”

“Whether or not we would provide a means by which they can have civilian nuclear power, and/or be a guarantor of their security – I think that’s a little way off,” Biden said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other top Garden State Democrats are calling on Democratic Sen. Bob...

Mark Jones

The latest on the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez

In a press conference Monday, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was defiant after being indicted on bribery charges on Friday. ABC News correspondent Justin Finch has the latest.

12 hours ago

SALT LAKE CITY -- With just a week until a potential government shutdown, Utah leaders are saying U...

Clayre Scott

‘We’ll find the money’: Utah leaders working to keep national parks open during potential government shutdown

With just a week until a potential government shutdown, Utah leaders are saying national parks will remain open without federal funding. 

3 days ago

FILE - The U.S. Capitol is seen on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. New Jerse...

Mark Jones

Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted Friday, what does this mean?

Andy Field with ABC News shares his insight into the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J,.

4 days ago

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other top Garden State Democrats are calling on Democratic Sen. Bob...

Dan Berman

New Jersey governor calls on Sen. Bob Menendez, a fellow Democrat, to resign

After being indicted, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez has been asked by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to resign.

4 days ago

John Curtis...

Lindsay Aerts

If government shuts down, Rep. John Curtis says Congress members shouldn’t get paid

If Congress shuts down, Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) said he wants to make it illegal for members of Congress to get paid.

4 days ago

(L) Heidi Westfall (Facebook), (R) Gavan Ganung (LinkedIn). Westfall and Ganung will know which one...

Lindsay Aerts

Roll of the dice to decide final spot in Brighton Town Council race

In the race for city council in the Town of Brighton, Heidi Westfall and Gavan Ganung are tied with 34 votes each.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Biden says war with Russia must end before NATO can consider membership for Ukraine