After repeatedly pleading to its NATO allies for Ukraine to be admitted into the alliance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that he will no longer plead and press for a NATO membership, seemingly nodding to one of Russia’s most salient demands from the country.
During an interview with ABC News’ David Muir, Zelensky was asked regarding Russia’s demands that could potentially end the war in Ukraine if he and his government would agree to it. It can be remembered that Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov enumerated beforehand a list of demands that could stop the war “in a moment” if Ukraine chooses to comply.
These demands are:
- To halt all military actions and stop fighting the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine.
- Change and amend its constitution to emphasize neutrality as a country.
- Acknowledge that Crimea is a part of Russian territory.
- Recognize that the disputed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are independent states.
Peskov demanded that “Ukraine ceases its military action” and that they should “stop their military action, and then no one will shoot,” said the secretary. “We have also spoken about how they should recognize that Crimea is Russian territory and that they need to recognize that Donetsk and Luhansk are independent states. And that’s it. It will stop in a moment,” he explained.
Zelensky: I am ready for a dialogue
“Are you willing to go along with all three [he listed three only] of those conditions? What is your message to Vladimir Putin right now?” asked Muir.
Zelensky answered Muir calmly, saying, “I am ready for a dialogue. We are not ready for the capitulation because it’s not me. It’s about the people who elected me. Regarding NATO, I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine. The alliance is afraid of controversial things and confrontation with Russia,” he explained.
He also went on to say through an interpreter that he does not want to be a president of a country who “was begging of something on its knees” and went on to say that “we’re not going to be that country, and I don’t want to be that president.”
When asked about the situation of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which Russia had earlier recognized as independent states, Zelensky stated that he was not open to recognizing the two breakaway regions as a state, but he was open to a dialogue regarding this.
“We can discuss and find a compromise,” he said. “What is important to me is how the people in those territories are going to live who want to be part of Ukraine, who in Ukraine will say that they want to have them in,” he expressed.
Zelensky further stated that he did not want ultimatums from Russia. He reiterated that he wanted more talking and dialogues between the two countries instead of living in the “informational bubble without oxygen.”
Ukraine and NATO’s Complicated Relationship
It can be remembered that Russia had been wary of NATO’s expansion further east, taking in former Soviet Union countries as it considered the alliance as a security concern. It had previously demanded that Ukraine not join this alliance as it would make their entire western border (except for Belarus and Finland) NATO members. Ukraine, in 2008, applied to begin its NATO Membership Action Plan, where it was initially welcomed in its aspirations for membership along with Georgia during the Bucharest Summit.
Throughout the years, its membership has stalled, especially now that they are in a war with Russia. However, this has not stopped NATO countries from supporting Ukraine. The US alone has sent in almost $1 billion worth of munitions and ‘lethal defensive assistance’ to Ukraine, with a potential $10 billion military assistance package in the works. The United Kingdom has also supported Ukraine’s war with Russia by sending in $230 million for military aid, making its total donation at $526 million. Germany has also sent in anti-tank weapons and Stinger SAMs to Ukraine, joining the Dutch Government in supplying them with Panzerfaust-3 rockets.
Despite these assistance packages to Ukraine, Zelensky had further asked for a no-fly zone from NATO in an attempt to stop the Russian bombardment of their major cities, many of which were targeting residential areas and evacuees. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was opposed to the idea, stating that “We are not part of this conflict” and that placing a no-fly zone on Ukrainian air space would be more devastating to peace in the region as they would have to shoot down Russian planes.
“If we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering,” he said.
EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian Pres. Zelensky to @DavidMuir on concerns over no-fly zone: "I'm sure that the brave American soldiers who would be shooting it down knowing that it is flying towards the students—I'm sure that they had no doubt in doing so." https://t.co/nZGERJIxoS pic.twitter.com/0zqSy9jjzQ
— ABC News (@ABC) March 7, 2022
Zelensky, when asked about whether he understood NATO’s concerns about the no-fly zone, stated that “We are a place in Europe, a place of freedom… Everyone thinks that we are far away from America or Canada. No, we are this zone of freedom. And when the limits of rights and freedoms are being violated and stepped on, then you have to protect us because we will come first, [and] you will come second because the more this beast will eat, it wants more, more, and more.”
“I’m sure that the President [Joe Biden] can do more. I’m sure that he can, and I would like to believe that, that he’s capable of doing that,” Zelensky said, referring to Biden’s capacity to do more for Ukraine aside from sending Polish fighter jets to them.
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