The U.S. and Europe have dangled NATO membership before Ukraine with no intention of making the nation a member. From Ted Snider at responsiblestatecraft.org:
Ukraine supposedly has the ‘right’ to choose its alliances, but as Washington has proven in its own backyard, no country really does.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal and needs to be condemned. But the United States should also be condemned for asking Ukraine to keep its aspiration to join NATO alive while at the same time spurning that aspiration.
Indeed, the United States doesn’t want Ukraine to reach a settlement with Russia that sacrifices the principle that nations have a right to determine their own alliances, a principle that the United States is not nor ever has itself recognized.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said this week that “President Zelenskyy has also made it very clear that he is open to a diplomatic solution that does not compromise the core principles at the heart of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.” According to Price, those core principles at the center of this conflict are “that each and every country has a sovereign right to determine its own foreign policy, has a sovereign right to determine for itself with whom it will choose to associate in terms of its alliances, its partnerships, and what orientation it wishes to direct its gaze.”
So the stated U.S. policy is that Ukraine can make a sovereign decision to join NATO and no country can close the door. But that is exactly what the United States has done. It has created the illusion of an open door for its international audience while closing it firmly shut.