By Steve Holland, Andrew Gray, John Irish and Sabine Siebold

VILNIUS (Reuters) – President Joe Biden accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having a “craven lust for land and power” at the end of a NATO summit on Wednesday where Ukraine won new security assurances from the U.S. and its allies for its defence against Moscow.

Members of the world’s most powerful military bloc offered the prospect of long-term protection a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy decried as “absurd” a refusal to offer an invitation 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 of people and displaced millions.

Instead, a declaration by the G7 group 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,” Biden said alongside Zelenskiy and leaders of the G7, which is made up of the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Later in a speech at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden said Putin had badly underestimated the resolve of the U.S.-led military alliance.

“NATO is stronger, more energized and yes, more united than ever in its history. Indeed, more vital to our shared future. It didn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t inevitable,” Biden said.

“When Putin, and his craven lust for land and power, unleashed his brutal war on Ukraine, he was betting NATO would break apart. He thought NATO would break. He thought our unity would shatter at the first testing. He thought democratic leaders would be weak. But he thought wrong.”

Swallowing his disappointment over the lack of a membership timetable, Zelenskiy called the outcome a “meaningful success” following 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, Zelenskiy 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,” he added.

At the bilateral meeting, Biden promised Zelenskiy the U.S. was doing everything it could to meet Ukraine’s needs and acknowledged Zelenskiy’s frustration about the scale and speed of support.

“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.

Asked by a reporter how soon after the war he would like Ukraine to join NATO, Biden responded “an hour and 20 minutes”.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden would discuss the issue of long-range missiles with Zelenskiy when they met.

Zelenskiy told Biden he wanted to thank “all Americans” for the billions of dollars in aid his country had received.

“You have to know that you spend this money” for more than just fighting, he said. “You spend this money for our lives.”

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he had told Ukraine that its international allies were “not Amazon” and Kyiv needed to show gratitude for weapons donations to persuade Western politicians to give more.

Zelenskiy said: “We were always grateful to the UK, prime ministers and the minister of defence because the people are always supporting us.”

Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. have been negotiating with Kyiv for weeks over a broad international framework of support, encompassing modern advanced military equipment such as fighter jets, training, intelligence-sharing and cyberdefence.

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

The first sitting of a new NATO-Ukraine Council was also held on Wednesday, a format designed to tighten cooperation between Kyiv and the 31-nation alliance.


NATO is built around mutual security guarantees whereby an attack on one is an attack on all, and it has carefully avoided extending any firm military commitments to Ukraine, worried it would risk taking it closer to a full-on war with Russia.

Ukraine has been wary of any less-binding security “assurances”, given Russia’s invasion already trampled the so-called Budapest Memorandum under which international powers committed to keeping the country safe in exchange for Kyiv giving up its Soviet-era nuclear arms.

Speaking earlier alongside Zelenskiy, 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.

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.

Russia, which says NATO’s eastward expansion is an existential threat to its own security, swiftly lashed out.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “potentially very dangerous” for the West to give Ukraine security guarantees.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said increasing military assistance to Ukraine by NATO was bringing closer a World War Three.

(This story has been corrected to tweak wording to ‘discuss the issue of long-range missiles’ from ‘offer long range missiles’, in paragraph 17)

(Reporting by John Irish, Steve Holland, Justyna Pawlak, Sabine Siebold, Andrew Gray, and Max Hunder, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Matthias Williams and William Maclean; Editing by Alex Richardson, Howard Goller and Rosalba O’Brien)

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