Saudi-Israel normalization a long way off, Biden says
Biden says Ukraine is not ready for Nato membership: War with Russia must end before Nato can consider membership for Ukraine: Biden visits Britain ahead of NATO summit
By News Desk
July 10, 2023 08:49 AM
US President Joe Biden has said that Saudi Arabia and Israel are a long way from a normalization agreement that would involve a defence treaty and a civilian nuclear programme from the United States. "We're a long way from there. We got a lot to talk about," Biden said in an interview with Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN.
US President Joe Biden has said that Ukraine is not yet ready for NATO membership, saying that Russia’s war in Ukraine needs to end before the alliance can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks. Biden told CNN that while discussion of Ukraine’s imminent membership in NATO was premature, the US and its allies in NATO would continue to provide President Volodymyr Zelensky and his forces the security and weaponry they need to try to end the war with Russia.
“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. “For example, if you did that, then, you know – and I mean what I say – we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”
Biden said that he’s spoken to Zelensky at length about the issue, saying that he’s told the Ukrainian president the US would keep providing security and weaponry for Ukraine like it does for Israel while the process plays out. “I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden said, noting that he refused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands before the war for a commitment not to admit Ukraine because the alliance has “an open-door policy.”
“But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” Biden said.
On Friday, the White House announced that the US was sending Ukraine cluster munitions for the first time, a step taken to help bolster Ukraine’s ammunition as it mounts a counteroffensive against Russia. Biden told CNN that it was a “difficult decision” to give Ukraine the controversial ammunition, but that he was convinced it was necessary because Ukraine was running out of ammunition.
Biden told CNN he was optimistic that Sweden would eventually be admitted to NATO, noting the key holdout, Turkey, is seeking to modernize its F-16 fleet, along with Greece, which has voted to admit Sweden.
“Turkey is looking for modernization of F-16 aircraft. And (Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis in Greece is also looking for some help,” Biden said. “And so, what I’m trying to, quite frankly, put together is a little bit of a consortium here, where we’re strengthening NATO in terms of military capacity of both Greece as well as Turkey, and allow Sweden to come in. But it’s in play. It’s not done.”
Biden said that he’s confident Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to replace the US as the country with the largest economy and military capacity in the world, but he said that he believes the US can have a working relationship with Beijing.
“I think there is a way to resolve, to establish a working relationship with China that benefits them and us,” Biden said. “And the last thing I’ll tell you, I also called him after he had that meeting with the Russians about this new relationship, etc. And I said, ‘This is not a threat. It’s an observation.’ I said, ‘Since Russia went into Ukraine, 600 American corporations have pulled out of Russia. And you’ve told me that your economy depends on investment from Europe and the United States. And be careful. Be careful.’”
Biden said Xi didn’t argue with him and noted that China has “not gone full bore on Russia.”
“He talks about nuclear war being a disaster, there is such a thing as security that’s needed,” Biden said of the Chinese leader. “So, I think there’s a way we can work through this.”
Asked whether he would invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, Biden said that Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was coming soon to the White House for a visit.
In March, Biden criticized Netanyahu for his now-scrapped plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary, a rare public instance where the two allies were publicly at odds.
Biden told CNN that he continued to believe a two-state solution was the correct path forward in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and he criticized some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet for their views on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“It’s not all Israel now in the West Bank, all Israel’s problem, but they are a part of the problem, and particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say, ‘We can settle anywhere we want. They have no right to be here, etc.,’” Biden said. “And I think we were talking with them regularly, trying to tamp down what’s going on and hopefully, Bibi will continue to move toward moderation and change.”
Biden also defended his trip to Saudi Arabia last year, telling CNN a number of successes came from the visit, such as establishing Israeli overflights over Saudi Arabia. Asked whether the US would provide the Saudis with a defense treaty and civilian nuclear capacity, as Riyadh has requested, Biden said, “We’re a long way from there.”
“Whether or not we would provide a means by which they can have civilian nuclear power, and/or be a guarantor of their security – I think that’s a little way off,” Biden said.
Visit to Britain
US President Joe Biden was in Britain on Monday for a brief visit to his key ally during which he will meet King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before going on to a NATO summit in Lithuania.
Ahead of the visit, the White House said Biden would seek to "further strengthen the close relationship" with Britain.
The king will host Biden at Windsor Castle, a royal residence west of London, where they are due to discuss climate issues, long a subject close to Charles' heart.
It will be their first meeting since the monarch's coronation in early May.
The president did not attend, sending First Lady Jill Biden instead, but the Bidens were at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September.
Earlier in the day, Biden will meet Sunak for their fifth meeting in recent months.
Downing Street has said the president's visit "reflects the strong relationship" between the two countries.
Sunak travelled to the United States last month for a two-day visit where the leaders discussed Ukraine, AI regulation and post-Brexit ties.
They also agreed to a new economic partnership, the "Atlantic Declaration".
Biden said the United States has "no closer ally" than Britain.
But Sunak came away empty-handed on the UK's ambitions for a post-Brexit free-trade agreement with Washington.
The two countries are key allies of Ukraine and Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour is likely to top the agenda on Monday, after Biden pledged to supply Kyiv with controversial cluster munitions.
- 'Compare notes' on Ukraine -
The move raised concerns from rights groups due to the danger unexploded bomblets pose to the civilian population and caused unease among US allies.
Biden said the decision to send the weapons was "very difficult" but Ukrainian forces conducting a counteroffensive against invading Russian troops were "running out of ammunition".
More than 120 countries have signed an agreement banning the production, storage, sale and use of cluster munitions and Sunak on Saturday highlighted that Britain was among them.
Sunak stressed, however, that Britain -- which has supplied Kyiv with heavy battle tanks and long-range weapons -- will continue to support Ukraine.
The talks will be an opportunity for Biden and Sunak to "compare notes" on Ukraine ahead of a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Lithuania, Amanda Sloat, National Security Council senior director for Europe, said in a briefing on Friday.
NATO allies meet in the capital, Vilnius, on Tuesday and Wednesday for a summit where Ukraine is hoping for a clear signal that it could one day join the US-led alliance.
From Lithuania, Biden will travel to Finland, NATO's newest member, for a US-Nordic Leaders Summit.
Northern Ireland may also be on the agenda for Sunak and Biden as it is "certainly an issue that the president regularly talks about with his British counterpart", Sloat said.
Biden briefly visited Northern Ireland in April to mark 25 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of violence in the UK province, under US mediation.
Biden, proud of his Irish roots, has criticised the UK for its stance on post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland, warning it could undermine the hard-fought peace.