Ukraine’s president chided NATO for not embracing his embattled country more fully and asked for more weapons to fight Russia’s invasion, as the leaders of the alliance met amid what its chief called its biggest crisis since World War II.
Russia’s invasion of its neighbor shattered Europe’s peace, drove NATO to pour troops and weapons into eastern Europe on a scale not seen since the Cold War and is set to give the defense organization two new members in Sweden and Finland.
Members of the alliance have also sent billions in military and civilian aid to Ukraine. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lamented that NATO’s open-door policy to new members did not apply to Ukraine.
“The open-door policy of NATO shouldn’t resemble old turnstiles on Kyiv’s subway, which stay open but close when you approach them until you pay,” Zelensky said by video link Wednesday as he addressed the summit. “Hasn’t Ukraine paid enough?”
He asked for more modern artillery systems and other weapons and warned the leaders that they either had to provide Ukraine with the help it needed to defeat Russia or “face a delayed war between Russia and yourself.”
Zelensky said Tuesday that Russia must be labeled a “state sponsor of terrorism” after a missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk killed at least 20 people.
“People in a mall in Kremenchuk have the same right to security as people at a mall anywhere in the world — be it Philadelphia or Tel Aviv,” he said, adding that Ukraine needs a credible defense system against Russian missiles.
“Only total insane terrorists, who should have no place on Earth, can strike missiles at civilian objects,” Zelensky said on his Telegram channel, accusing Russia of carrying out “calculated strikes” at civilian infrastructure.
“Russia must be recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism. The world can and therefore must stop Russian terror,” Zelensky added.
On Monday, a Russian missile strike hit a shopping center in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk while there were around a thousand people inside.
Also Tuesday, Ukraine’s embassy in Tel Aviv slammed Israel over its immigration policy in a tweet, claiming Jerusalem unilaterally decided to walk back on previous agreements and bar entry to women and children from Ukraine who don’t have an electronic visa.
“This decision endangers lives. Meanwhile, Russian and Belarusian oligarchs are able to enter Israel freely,” the embassy tweeted.
Israel has largely avoided joining international sanctions campaigns against Russia and its oligarchs.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have entered Israel, including Jews, joining thousands who were already in the country when war broke out. Over half of the arrivals were Jewish Ukrainians who came as new immigrants under Israel’s Law of Return.
Zelensky has acknowledged that NATO membership is a distant prospect for his country. The alliance is trying to strike a delicate balance, letting its member-nations arm Ukraine without sparking a direct confrontation between NATO and nuclear-armed Russia.
As 30 NATO leaders met in Madrid, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged the alliance is “in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced since the Second World War.”
US President Joe Biden, whose country provides the bulk of NATO’s military power, said the summit would send “an unmistakable message… that NATO is strong and united.”
“We’re stepping up. We’re proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been,” said Biden. He announced a hefty boost in America’s military presence in Europe, including a permanent US base in Poland, two more Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and two more F35 squadrons to the UK.
But strains among NATO allies have also emerged as the cost of energy and other essential goods has skyrocketed, partly because of the war and tough Western sanctions on Russia. There also are tensions over how the war will end and what, if any, concessions Ukraine should make to stop the fighting.