Nato official suggests Ukraine could swap territory for membership

Nato official suggests Ukraine could swap territory for  membership
Stian Jenssen, Chief of Staff to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speculated that Ukraine could cede territory in exchange for Nato membership / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin August 17, 2023

Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, has put the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting that Ukraine could consider ceding part of its territory to Russia in exchange for Nato membership. 

Speaking during a debate in the Norwegian city of Arendal on August 15, Jenssen said that it's one of the possible solutions under consideration. He stressed that any decision regarding negotiations and terms should rest with Ukraine.

Jenssen highlighted that discussions regarding Ukraine's status post-conflict are already underway, and some countries are raising the question of Kyiv ceding territory to Russia in the process.

Jensson later clarified his remarks after a backlash from Kyiv, telling the Norwegian newspaper VG in an interview published on August 16, “my statement about this was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine, and I shouldn’t have said it that way. It was a mistake”.

According to most polls, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians are opposed to making any territorial concessions to Russia whatsoever. At the same time Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's official 10-point peace plan starts with the demand that Russia completely quits all Ukraine’s territory and returns to the 1991 borders. Should Zelenskiy accept a deal that includes territorial concessions then analysts anticipate widespread protests in Ukraine opposing any such plan.

For their part the Kremlin has said that it is not interested in annexing Ukraine but is insisting that it will keep those parts of the country that are “included in the Russian constitution”. Last September, Russian added four regions in Ukraine to Russia’s territory in a series of referenda that were condemned by the international community.

Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has already dismissed the idea of giving up territory in comments on Twitter, saying the idea of exchanging territory for Nato membership was "ridiculous". Podolyak asserted that such an approach would entail conceding democracy, strengthening a global criminal entity, sustaining the Russian regime, undermining international law, and transferring the burden of war to future generations. He further stressed that anything other than a "crushing defeat" for Putin would only whet Russia's appetite for more aggression.

At the most recent Nato summit in Vilnius in July, the G7 officially affirmed their commitment to providing long-term security support to Ukraine, without spelling out the details of any proposed security deal. Zelenskiy, in a nightly address on July 12, declared that Ukraine had established a foundation to pave the way to Nato, backed by concrete security assurances from the world's top seven democracies.

However, Ukraine's negotiating position has not been improved by its much-hyped counter-offensive, which has got bogged down and has failed to produce any spectacular breakthroughs after the Russians spent eight months building extensive defences along the front line, including hundreds of square kilometres of mine fields.