Lawmakers split on Ukraine’s new NATO bid

Last updated on September 30, 2022

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday stopped short of backing Ukraine’s request for an “accelerated accession” to join NATO, hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the bid in response to Moscow declaring it had annexed four regions of Ukraine.

When asked by POLITICO if she backed Ukraine’s NATO accession, Pelosi declined to explicitly endorse it, but said she supports a “security guarantee” for Kyiv.

“We are very committed to democracy in Ukraine,” Pelosi said. “Let’s win this war. But I would be for them having a security guarantee.”

Her remarks came shortly before the House passed a temporary government funding bill that provides $12 billion in Ukraine aid as the war enters the critical winter months. While Pelosi was speaking, lawmakers were hosting a group of Ukrainian parliamentarians outside the Capitol building, where a different message was delivered.

“Ukraine’s fight is the reason we formed NATO in the first place,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who recently traveled to Kyiv and met with Zelenskyy. “After the Second World War, we recognized that an authoritarian regime cannot be allowed to wipe out a democratic country. I think we need to support this.”

Ukraine’s NATO membership has long been a thorny subject in Washington due to Article 5 of the charter, which requires the U.S. to militarily defend any member-nation that comes under attack. As the likelihood of a fuller-scale Russian invasion rose in the past decade, Ukraine sought those security guarantees even as many in the U.S. became anxious over the prospect of fighting a war with Russia.

The West fears that Ukraine’s immediate entry into NATO — which requires the unanimous approval of all 30 member-nations — would put the U.S. and Russia at war due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as well as its forced annexations announced Friday.

Some allies of former President Donald Trump have even sought to convince Ukraine to commit to not joining NATO as a way to placate Vladimir Putin, even though the U.S. believed that the Russian leader was going to invade Ukraine anyway and was simply looking for a pretext.

Earlier on Friday, Zelenskyy gave a video address asking for fast-track admission to NATO, following Putin’s declaration that four territories in Ukraine’s east would become a part of Russia.

“We trust each other, we help each other and we protect each other. This is what the alliance is. De facto. Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure,” Zelenskyy said.

Putin, during a Friday ceremony at the Kremlin, vowed to use all the powers at his disposal to defend the four territories following forced annexation referendums this week.

U.S. and European countries condemned the referendums as a pretext to further violate Ukraine’s sovereignty. President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would be imposing additional sanctions on Moscow in response to Putin’s latest move.

During his address, Putin called upon Kyiv to cease military action and said Moscow was open to negotiations, although Ukraine has long insisted that it will not stop fighting until Russian forces pull out of the country.

Zelenskyy responded in his own address that, although Ukraine was open to negotiations, it was “impossible” to do so with Putin, and would have to be with another Russian president.

David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian lawmaker who joined lawmakers in Washington on Friday, said “we are ready to talk to Russia, but not to Putin.” Arakhamia also vowed that Ukraine will “forcefully” take back the eastern territories that were annexed.