US says wrong to discuss Ukraine joining NATO in exchange for territory

17.08.2023, 07:21
US says wrong to discuss Ukraine joining NATO in exchange for territory - Photo
White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby. Photo: EPA

There are no discussions of giving Ukraine membership in NATO in exchange for territorial concessions to Russia, the White House said on Wednesday following a public gaffe by an Alliance official.

Speaking at a public event in Norway this week, Stian Jenssen, the head of the NATO secretary general's office, suggested a possible solution for Ukraine "could be to give up the territory in exchange for NATO membership".

Mr Jenssen's comments caused a wave of indignation in Kyiv, with Ukraine's foreign ministry calling them "absolutely unacceptable" and playing into Russian narrative.

John Kirby, the US national security council coordinator, told a briefing that the suggestion is "not accurate" and Washington’s position on the issue has not changed.

"We’ve already talked about trying to help find a path towards membership. We’ve said publicly that NATO is going to be in Ukraine’s future, and at the Vilnius summit, the Alliance stood behind that idea and got behind a notion wherein a pathway can be developed for that eventual membership," he said.

The US’ current focus is "on helping Ukraine beat back Russian aggression and continue to claw back territory that rightfully belongs to them," Mr Kirby added.

NATO has been reluctant to move forward with Ukraine’s membership for years, sticking to the 2008 decision that it would be granted "one day".

Critics have suggested that the 2008 decision might have emboldened Russia to pursue aggression against Georgia that year and, eventually, Ukraine in 2014 and 2022.

That changed only this year, when the Alliance's leaders agreed to extend an invitation to Kyiv without a membership action plan, thus making the process shorter.

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