US President Joe Biden has said that Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership before the end of the war.

If Ukraine joined the alliance during the war, he told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday, “We would be at war with Russia if that were the case,” meaning the NATO alliance would be dragged into the war Conflict.

The US president also said that before Ukraine is considered for NATO membership, it will take time to meet all the required requirements “from democratization to a wide range of other issues.” Meanwhile, he expressed the US commitment to provide Ukraine with “the weaponry it needs, the ability to defend itself.”

Biden will be in Europe this week for a three-country tour, including attending the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11-12. He said there is no unanimity in NATO on whether to include Ukraine in the alliance in the middle of the war, stressing that “keeping NATO together is really critical.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that during the summit, he hopes to “do everything possible to… expedite solutions for an agreement with our partners.”

Zelenskyy also touted the value of Ukraine as a future NATO member country “with the most powerful armed forces in Europe.” He added: “Ninety percent of Ukrainians want to be part of NATO. More than 90 percent of Ukrainians want to be part of the European Union.”

Ukrainian bombing

At least eight civilians were killed and 13 wounded by Russian artillery on Saturday in the Ukrainian town of Lyman, a key railway junction in the eastern Donetsk region.

Russian forces attempted to advance into the Lyman sector but were repulsed, the Ukrainian armed forces General Staff reported. He said at least 10 towns and villages were hit by the shelling, which started fires that burned a house, a printing press and three cars in the area.

The attacks came as Ukraine marked the 500th day of the Russian invasion.

US allies in cluster bombs

On Sunday, National Security Council spokesman Kirby defended the US decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, saying it will keep the country “in the fight” as Ukrainian forces are running out of regular artillery munitions.

On Saturday, US and Russian allies reacted to the US decision to supply Ukraine with controversial cluster munitions that are banned by more than 100 entities, though not by the US, Russia and Ukraine.

Canada, Great Britain, Spain, Germany and the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, expressed their opposition to the US decision.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the US announcement to send cluster bombs to Kyiv, vowing that the munitions would be used only in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories and not in Russia. Reznikov said on Twitter that the new weapons “will significantly help us eliminate those occupying our territories while saving the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.”

Cluster munitions typically release large numbers of smaller mini-bombs that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area. Those that do not explode in contact with the ground represent a hazard for decades.

Moscow described the US decision as another egregious example of Washington’s anti-Russian course.

On Friday, Biden defended the US move, calling it a “difficult decision.” “It took me a while to convince myself to do it,” Biden said in an interview with CNN, stressing that cluster munitions would help Ukraine “keep those [Russian] tanks from rolling.”

Biden’s decision circumvents US law prohibiting the production, use or transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1% by allocating munitions from existing defense stocks under the Foreign Assistance Act once the president deems such a provision to be in the national and security interest.

The cluster ammunition supply is part of an $800 million security package that has brought US military aid to Ukraine to more than $40 billion since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

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