Biden casts doubt on Ukraine’s fondest wish: Eventual NATO membership

BIDEN: ‘NOT PREPARED TO SUPPORT THE NATO-IZATION OF UKRAINE’: In an interview with Time magazine this week, President Joe Biden expressed doubts about whether Ukraine needs to join NATO in order to bring lasting peace and stability to the war-torn nation, suggesting instead that NATO should continuing supporting Ukraine so it can defend itself.

“Peace looks like making sure Russia never, never, never, never occupies Ukraine. That’s what peace looks like,” Biden told Time in an Oval Office interview published Tuesday. “It doesn’t mean … they are part of NATO. It means we have a relationship with them like we do with other countries, where we supply weapons so they can defend themselves in the future.”

Biden cited Ukraine’s long history of political corruption as one factor weighing against NATO membership but stressed abandoning Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression would risk grave consequences. “The point is, though, that if we ever let Ukraine go down, mark my words: You’ll see Poland go, and you’ll see all those nations along the actual border of Russia, from the Balkans and Belarus, all those, they’re going to make their own accommodations.”

“I am not prepared to support the NATO-ization of Ukraine,” he said.  

ZELENSKY: NATO INVITATION WOULD STRENGTHEN HIS HAND: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Biden on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue defense forum in Singapore last weekend to press the case again for Ukraine to receive an invitation to join the alliance when the 32 leaders of NATO gather for a summit in Washington next month.

“I would really like us to get an invitation because I know that this would be a very serious card in Ukraine’s hands before the end of the war,” Zelensky told the New York Times in an interview on May 20. “I believe that when this card is in Ukraine’s hands, it is also in the hands of the United States and other partners and even those who are not in NATO, those who are Russia’s neighbors, and those who are concerned about their security.”

Zelensky said he knows his country can’t join the alliance until the war ends, but the invitation, even if it’s only symbolic, sends a powerful message: “This doesn’t mean we are in NATO. And we are not pushing. We understand that if there is an invitation, we will only discuss NATO membership after the war. We understand all the arguments. There will be no pressure from our side.”

But Zelensky agrees with Biden on one point. The rest of Europe’s security is tied to the fate of Ukraine. “Those who today believe that Russia will never attack them and those who consider themselves economic partners will become its enemies tomorrow,” Zelensky told the New York Times. “Wasn’t it like that with Ukraine? Weren’t we their main friends? Were we not their main market? Were they not our main trading partner? Families, friends, economy, geography, security, everything. And now we are 100% enemies.”

BIDEN’S POSITION IS NOT NEW: Biden’s comments to Time reflects his long-held skepticism that Ukraine can ever become a NATO member, given that it requires unanimity among the 32 members, and some nations, such as Hungary and Turkey, that also seek relations with Russia would likely never acquiesce. The same holds for even a symbolic invitation.

In an interview with CNN a year ago, Biden said it’s more important to keep NATO unified and that he has told Zelensky that a more realistic prospect would be for Ukraine to have a relationship with the U.S. akin to the support the U.S. provides Israel. 

“Here’s the deal,” Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “I spent, as you know, a great deal of time trying to hold NATO together because I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective … and that was to break NATO.”

“So holding NATO together is really critical. 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, noting it would require NATO to defend “every inch” of Ukraine’s territory.

“I’ve spoken with Zelensky at length about this, and one of the things I indicated is what the United States would be ready to provide while the process was going on and that it’s going to take a while,” Biden said. “While that process was going on to provide security a la the security we provide for Israel, providing the weaponry and the needs, capacity to defend themselves if there is an agreement, if there is a ceasefire, if there is a peace agreement.”

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HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden and world leaders are taking part in ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied D-Day operation that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Biden is joined at commemoration ceremonies at the Normandy American Cemetery in France by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr

Both the House and the Senate sent bipartisan delegations of lawmakers to attend the anniversary commemoration. 

“Today, we remember all the Americans who laid down their lives on D-Day to help end the tyranny of fascism across Europe, liberate oppressed peoples, and ensure the flame of liberty would burn bright around the world,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House in advance of the ceremony at the cemetery where some 9,000 U.S. service members are buried. “As we reflect on the sacrifices made on D-Day, we are reminded that freedom is not free and it has never been guaranteed. Every generation has to earn it, fight for it, and defend it in the battle between autocracy and democracy — between the greed of a few and the rights of many. “

The Pentagon livestreamed the event at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time on its website.

WICKER: US NEEDS A DEFENSE TOP LINE ‘THAT MEETS THE MOMENT’: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has already outlined what he sees as the viral interests that must be funded in the defense budget this year. His proposed defense investment plan, 21st Century Peace Through Strength: A Generational Investment in the U.S. Military, was released last week.

But yesterday, Wicker went a step further, taking to the Senate floor to announce he will propose an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to increase the top line for the Pentagon’s fiscal 2025 budget well above the current $850 billion, budget caps be damned.

“We in Congress must tell the American people what is at stake,” Wicker said, citing the growing threat of war with China. “Failing to deter China would immediately trigger a global economic depression. Losing to Beijing would extend the hardship, darkening the course of the entire 21st century.”

“I’m not trying to be alarmist. But we need to be honest,” he said. “There’s really no time to waste. We need to get started this year. We can do so next week … when the Armed Services Committee in the Senate begins the NDAA markup. During our meetings, I will introduce an amendment to raise the level of this year’s defense investment significantly.”

Wicker did not give a number, but in the past, a bipartisan majority added $20 billion to $40 billion to the annual authorization bill. But this year, the top line is capped by the debt ceiling deal demanded and brokered by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, at the behest of his hard-line Republican members.

MILCON BILL FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE: The House yesterday passed the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act by a party-line 209-197 vote. The bill has a lot of provisions that enjoy wide bipartisan support, such as funding barracks upgrades, new child development centers, veterans’ healthcare programs, and improvements to U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific. 

But it also contains provisions considered “poison pills” by Democrats, including a prohibition on the use of federal funds to enable service members to obtain abortions, a bar on anyone in the country illegally from applying for veteran medical care, and an end to the use of funds to promote or advance critical race theory or diversity, equity, and inclusion executive orders.

Passage of the normally uncontroversial bill is the first in an ambitious effort by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to pass all funding bills before the August recess, but the Senate is not expected to consider the measure until Democrats find out if they still control the Senate after the November elections — and whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be president in 2025.

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THE RUNDOWN: 

Washington Examiner: Netanyahu says Israel is ‘prepared for very intense action’ against Hezbollah

Washington Examiner: Biden softens suggestion Netanyahu is prolonging Israel-Hamas war

Washington Examiner: Border crossing levels unchanged day after Biden executive order

Washington Examiner: ACLU will sue Biden for implementing ‘same’ asylum ban as Trump

Washington Examiner: Gunman arrested after shooting outside US Embassy in Lebanon

Washington Examiner: Lloyd Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, stepping down

Washington Examiner: Sen. John Kennedy gets FBI director to imply López Obrador’s corruption and more

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Biden tempts Russian escalation with harebrained Ukraine caution

BBC: Putin Warns Russia Could Provide Weapons to Strike West

Politico: ​​Ukraine Presses US, Europe to Step Up F-16 Pilot Training

New York Times: Allies Warn Former Fighter Pilots Not to Train Chinese Military Members

Stars and Stripes: Navy Focuses On Rapidly Changing Battle Technology, Franchetti Says In Bahrain

Washington Post: Israel To Decide Soon On Lebanon Offensive As Fighting With Hezbollah Flares

New York Times: U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Censures Iran And Demands Access For Inspectors

USNI News: NATO To Kick Off Largest Baltic Operations Exercise To Date

Defense.info: Prague’s Munitions Initiative for Ukraine Doesn’t Czech Out 

New York Times: What Ukraine has lost, building by building, block by block

Bloomberg: Backlogged US Defense Industry Crimps Bid for More Attack Subs

AP: U.S. Military Hopes To Reinstall Gaza Aid Pier Later This Week

Defense One: As Space Gets More Crowded, Pentagon Looks to AI to Spot Weapons

CBS News: Disinformation Campaign Uses Fake Footage To Claim Attack On USS Eisenhower

Reuters: Yemen’s Houthis Target 3 Vessels In Red Sea And Arabian Sea

Air & Space Forces Magazine: B-1 Bomber Drops Live Munitions in Exercise over South Korea

Air Force Times: Air Force’s Top Leaders Urge Unity, Patience as Changes Abound

Air & Space Forces Magazine: CYBERCOM Wields ‘Service-Like’ Authority as It Combines USAF, Army Programs

SpaceNews: The Satellite Breakup: Military’s Push to Go Small

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force Buys First Lot of Norwegian Joint Strike Missiles

Breaking Defense: Germany’s Scholz Says 20 More Eurofighters to Be Ordered

Breaking Defense: What a Crashed Jet Means for an F-35 Program Already Thin on Test Planes

The War Zone: FEANIX ‘Remote Carrier’ Aims to Be the Ultra-Adaptable Missile of the Future

New York Post: Opinion: Why 2024 is the ‘year of the drone’ after Iran’s attack on Israel 

THE CALENDAR: 

THURSDAY | JUNE 6

5 a.m. 1750 Independence Ave. SW — Friends of the National World War II Memorial D-Day 80th anniversary ceremony with a reading of the names of the nearly 9,000 laid to rest at Normandy American Cemetery, with Elliott Roosevelt III, great-grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; Jeff Reinbold, superintendent, National Mall and Memorial Parks; Jane Droppa, chairwoman, Friends of the National World War II Memorial; Alex Kershaw, resident historian at the Friends of the National World War II Memorial; and DeRonda Elliott, daughter of Corp. Frank Elliott, killed-in action D-Day. https://www.facebook.com/WWIIMemorialFriends

9 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual National Security Conference with Jon Finer, White House deputy national security adviser; Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for international economics; Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shigeo Yamada; Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez; Ellen Lord, former undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; and former Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) https://conference.cnas.org/register/

9 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council discussion: “An allied approach to de-risking the tech supply chain,” with Tarun Chhabra, senior director for technology and national security at the National Security Council, and Kristy Hsu, director, Taiwan Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research’s Taiwan-ASEAN Studies Center https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/an-allied-approach-to-de-risking

10 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “Strategic Corruption, State Capture, and Sanctions Enforcement in Europe,” focusing on Ukraine, with Ruslan Stefanov, chief economist and program director at the Center for the Study of Democracy; Martin Vladimirov, director, Center for the Study of Democracy’s Energy and Climate Program; Dragan Koprivica, executive director, Montenegro Center for Democratic Transition; and Ognian Shentov, chairman, Center for the Study of Democracy https://www.hudson.org/events/strategic-corruption

10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion: “The Missile Defense Agency and the 2025 Budget,” with Air Force Lt. Gen. Heath Collins, Missile Defense Agency director https://www.csis.org/events/mda-and-2025-budget

12 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “The global cyberthreat landscape in 2024, Securing Cyberspace,” with Nathaniel Fick, U.S. ambassador at large for cyberspace and digital policy; Kemba Walden, president, Paladin Global Institute and former White House acting national cyber director; and retired Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, founding director, Institute for National Defense and Global Security, Vanderbilt University https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live

12 p.m. — Association, U.S. Army “Noon Report” webinar with retired Lt. Col. James Lechner, author, With My Shield: An Army Ranger in Somalia https://www.ausa.org/events/noon-report/lechner

2 p.m. — Government Executive Media Group and Booz Allen Hamilton virtual discussion: “Disrupting the Battlespace: Developing Ecosystems to Enable Dual-use Defense Technologies for the DOD” https://events.govexec.com/disrupting-the-battlespace

3 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute discussion: “Europe Goes to the Polls,” with Michael Curtis, European Union deputy ambassador to the U.S.; Matthias Matthijs, associate professor of international political economy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Peter Rough, director, Hudson Institute’s Center on Europe and Eurasia; Constanze Stelzenmuller, director, Brookings Institution Center on the U.S. and Europe; and Stan Veuger, AEI senior fellow https://www.aei.org/events/europe-goes-to-the-polls

FRIDAY | JUNE 7

9 a.m. 14th and F Sts. NW — Arms Control Association 2024 annual meeting, with the theme “Moving Back from the Nuclear Brink,” with Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Pranay Vaddi, senior director for arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation at the National Security Council https://www.armscontrol.org/2024AnnualMeeting

11 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Centering Human Rights in Ukraine’s Reconstruction,” with Melinda Haring, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, and Bill Van Esveld, associate director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division https://www.csis.org/events/centering-human-rights-ukraines-reconstruction

11 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “NATO’s top military officer on Ukraine war, European security, and world order,” with Royal Netherlands Navy Adm. Rob Bauer, chairman, NATO Military Committee, and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live

11:30 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: “NATO in the New Era of Collective Defense,” with Royal Netherlands Navy Adm. Rob Bauer, chairman, NATO Military Committee https://www.hudson.org/events/nato-era-collective-defense-rob-bauer

3 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution discussion: “Taiwan’s Central Role in the Global Economy,” with James Goodrich, Rand Corporation senior adviser for technology analysis; Janka Oertel, director, European Council on Foreign Relations Asia Program; and Shelley Rigger, professor of Asian politics at Davidson College https://www.brookings.edu/events/taiwans-central-role

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