Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has dropped his clearest hint yet that he does not expect his country to join NATO anytime soon.
In comments made in an address by video-link to leaders of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force on Tuesday, Zelensky appeared to shift further away from what until recently had been seen as a key Ukrainian ambition.
“For years we have been hearing about how the door is supposedly open [to NATO membership] but now we hear that we cannot enter. And it is true, and it must be acknowledged,” he said.
“I am glad that our people are beginning to understand this and rely on themselves and on our partners who assist us,” he added.
Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, and its status as a NATO partner — seen as a step on the way to eventual full membership — was among the reasons Vladimir Putin gave for launching what he called Russia’s “special military operation” against its southern neighbor.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken called it a “reflection of reality” for Zelensky to signal today that he will not join NATO anytime soon.
“I don't think that's a concession. I think first of all it's a reflection of reality that even before this aggression by Russia, Ukraine was not going to get into NATO tomorrow. All the more reason why as we've seen when Putin was saying that their concerns about Ukraine centered on its admission to NATO, that was wrong. That was a lie,” Blinken said.
Blinken said that Putin has demonstrated that this war in Ukraine is about “denying Ukraine its independent existence.”
Blinken called the US support for Ukraine “extraordinary” and said that support will continue “to make sure that Ukraine has the means to defend itself."
Blinken would not detail what consequences China would face if they provide military or economic support to China but he said the US has "made very clear that is not something we are going to face sitting down.”