During a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he was told there was no chance of Ukraine joining NATO in the near future. NATO countries told Zelensky that “publicly, the door would remain open”, however.
“The leaders of world countries, most leaders of NATO and European Union were well aware of my position. I told them that we were running out of time,” Zelensky said. “‘You have to admit Ukraine into NATO right now. We do not have much time, you have to accept Ukraine as a member of the EU.’ We deserve these alliances, were are just reinforcing you. We are strengthening you and you will see it,” Zelensky claims to have conveyed to world leaders in the months leading up to the conflict.
Zelensky was told that Ukraine would not be able to join NATO, however. The Ukrainian leader said various NATO countries had security concerns, while others lacked public opinion, and that Ukraine would not be able to join NATO. “They do not have a consolidated position and I requested that personally, to say directly that ‘we are going to accept you into NATO in a year, or two or five.’ Just say it directly and clearly, or just say no” Zelensky said.
“And the response was very clear; ‘you’re not going to be a NATO or EU member, but publicly, the doors will remain open,'” the Ukrainian President was reportedly told by NATO leaders.
Zelensky on NATO: “I requested them personally to say that we are going to accept you into NATO…just say it directly and clearly, or just say no. The response was very clear, you're not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open.” https://t.co/oHCDeCyir0
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) March 20, 2022
In December, Biden told Zelensky that Ukraine joining NATO was in their hands during a phone call. “President Biden said very clearly that the decision on Ukraine’s accession to NATO is the decision of the Ukrainian people only, this is a sovereign and independent Ukrainian state,” said Zelensky’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak. “And it depends on Ukraine and NATO members.”
This was echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who said the nation supports Ukraine’s NATO ascension as recently as June of 2021.
Zelensky has now conceded that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO, but not before revealing that one story was being presented to his government, while an entirely different narrative was sold to the public. The Ukrainian President has continued to lobby for NATO intervention, though Washington has ruled out military confrontation with Russia. Most recently, Zelensky urged the U.S. and NATO to establish a no-fly-zone in Ukraine, which would require coalition forces to shoot down Russian aircraft.