President Biden said in an interview that aired Sunday that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership and that it is “too early” to begin the process to allow Ukraine to join the alliance in the middle of a war.
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Mr. Biden said that he did not “think there is unanimity in NATO on whether to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now or not,” and that the process could only happen after a peace agreement with Russia was in place.
“If the war continues, then we are all at war,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the alliance’s commitment to mutual defense. “We are at war with Russia if that were the case.” He added that there would be “other qualifications that must be met, including democratization,” for Ukraine to be considered for membership.
The president began a trip to Europe on Sunday that will include attending a NATO summit in Lithuania, where Russia’s war in Ukraine — and a decision last week by the United States to supply Kiev with weapons banned by most of its allies — will be. main focus
Mr. Biden said in the interview that he warned President Xi Jinping of China about growing too close to Russia. He added that after the Chinese leader met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in March, Mr. Biden spoke to Mr. Xi and reminded him that dozens of American corporations had pulled out of Russia since the war.
“He didn’t argue,” Mr. Biden said. “And if you notice, he wasn’t bored” about Russia.
Mr Biden also defended his decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions, which are banned by many of America’s closest allies. He said it was a difficult decision, but with artillery supplies dwindling, it was a choice between supplying the weapons or leaving Ukraine defenseless.
“It was a very difficult decision on my part — and by the way, I discussed this with our allies, I discussed this with our friends on the Hill,” Mr. Biden said. “The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.”
Another topic of discussion at the NATO summit will be Sweden’s interest in joining the alliance. Mr Biden, who met with the Swedish prime minister last week, said he was “optimistic” that Sweden was closer to joining the group, despite opposition from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. (But Mr Erdogan does support Ukraine’s admission: He said on Saturday, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at his side, that “Ukraine deserves NATO membership without a doubt.”)
Mr. Biden, who is 80 and running for re-election, also addressed concerns about his age.
“I think we’re bringing the world together in a way that’s going to make things significantly, how can I put it, safer for people,” Mr. Biden said. “I just want to finish the job. And I think we can do that in the next six years.”
Safak Timur contributed reporting from Istanbul.