NATO chief of staff Stian Jenssen on Wednesday walked back his controversial suggestion that Ukraine cede territory and become a member of the Western security alliance to end the war with Russia, calling the statement a “mistake.”
Jenssen’s comment during a Tuesday panel discussion had prompted backlash from Western leaders, including Ukraine, who have long argued ceding territory would only embolden Russia and deliver an unjust blow to Kyiv.
After the criticism, the chief of staff to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg walked the comments back in an interview with Norwegian newspaper VG, saying the statement “was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine.”
“And I shouldn’t have said it that way,” Jenssen told the media outlet. “It was a mistake.”
VG also first reported Jenssen’s comment during the panel discussion in Arendal, Norway. The NATO official said he was open to Ukraine giving up territory in return for membership, noting he is not the first person to raise that solution as a way to end the war.
He also said Russia is unlikely to gain any new territory and it was now a question of how much territory Ukraine can take back in its ongoing counteroffensive.
“I’m not saying it has to be like this. But that could be a possible solution,” he said at the panel on Tuesday.
The comments drew the anger of Ukrainian presidential office adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, who said it would be “ridiculous” to trade territory for a “NATO umbrella.”
“That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations,” Podolyak wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If Putin does not suffer a crushing defeat, the political regime in Russia does not change, and war criminals are not punished, the war will definitely return with Russia’s appetite for more.”
An anonymous NATO official also shot down the suggestion in an interview with Ukrainian outlet European Pravda, stressing support for Kyiv was “clear and unwavering.”
“We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as NATO leaders reaffirmed at the Vilnius Summit in July,” the official said. “We will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary, and we are committed to achieving a just and lasting peace.”
At the Vilnius Summit, NATO cleared a membership requirement for Ukraine, pushing it closer toward eventual inclusion in the alliance, and established a new council to work even more closely with Kyiv during the war.
Still, the war appears to be approaching a stalemate, which may lead to more calls to find a solution to end the war. The conflict is still deadly but has slowed down for both Moscow and Kyiv as troops struggle to overcome defenses in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops have faced myriad obstacles in the offensive operation in the southern Zaporizhizhia region, including minefields and trenches, leading to questions about whether they can be successful and reclaim territory.
A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called a peace summit earlier this month in Saudi Arabia “very productive,” though it did not offer any definitive proposals and did not include Russia.
Source : The Hill