I’m interrupting preparing my regularly scheduled same-day report on the new official U.S. trade figures (for January) to report on a potentially game-changing development in the Ukraine crisis: President Volodymyr Zelensky told ABC News last night that he’s no longer insisting that his country retain the right to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
As you may remember, just yesterday, my post made the case that Zelensky’s former position – a main reason cited by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine – resulted in part from the alliance’s long-time policy of treating Ukraine as a member in all but name, to the point of conducting joint exercises with Kyiv’s armed forces. At the same time, by declining to admit Ukraine officially, NATO studiously avoided formally committing to come to Ukraine’s defense if attacked. So I concluded that the alliance irresponsibly created unrealistic expectations on the part of the country’s leadership regarding its options as a next-door neighbor of a much bigger, stronger, unfriendly power.
But Zelensky’s statements last night strongly indicated that he’s stepping off that primrose path down which NATO and most recent U.S. Presidents have led Kyiv.
Specifically, he told ABC News‘ David Muir: “I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that … NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine.,”
He added, “The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia.” And given the strong opposition voiced by President Biden and NATO’s leaders to sending military forces to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invaders, or to establish a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine (specifically for fear of igniting direct conflict with Russia), it’s hard to argue with his assessment.
Nor is Zelensky’s position totally out of the blue. In a development I’d missed, three days ago Ukraine’s top negotiator with Russia (and leader of Zelensky’s party in Ukraine’s parliament, told a Fox News reporter that
“The response that we are getting from the NATO countries is that they are not ready to even discuss having us in NATO, not for the closest period of five or 10 years. We would not fight for the NATO applications, we would fight for the result, but not for the process.
“We are ready to discuss some non-NATO models. For example, there could be direct guarantees by different countries like the U.S., China, U.K., maybe Germany and France. We are open to discuss such things in a broader circle, not only in bilateral discussions with Russia, but also with other partners.”
Those specific ideas sound pretty far-fetched to me, but the signal of flexibility on this crucial bone of contention was unmistakable. So was the scorn displayed in David Arakhamia’s reference to security “guarantees that NATO is afraid of.”
Oddly, (or maybe not so oddly, given the Mainstream Media’s strongly globalist bias on foreign policy issues), these remarks by Ukrainian leaders have gone almost entirely unreported so far. Nor were they mentioned by President Biden this morning when he announced a ban on imports of oil and other energy products from Russia.
Let’s hope that the President’s silence stems from caution and information-gathering that are entirely understandable given the new Ukraine stance’s potential for peacefully ending Europe’s worst and most dangerous security and humanitarian crisis since World War II, rather than embarrassment over evidence that his own stubbornness and fecklessness (along with that of his predecessors and other NATO leaders) on the issue deserve some blame for its outbreak.
P.S. I’ll post the trade report tomorrow!