Ukrainian ambassador: Ukraine already defending NATO eastern flank
Ukraine is already defending NATO's eastern flank and is factually a part of the NATO collective defense system, which fact needs to be legally registered, said Mariana Betsa, Ukrainian ambassador to Estonia.
Ukraine has several foreign policy priorities today, while two of them have been around for years - joining the EU and NATO.
"We were given EU candidate status last year and are working to meet the European Commission's recommendations. We hope Ukraine's accession negotiations will begin this year. There is nothing standing in the way of launching this process, while we realize the result will not arrive tomorrow or the day after that. The important thing is to launch the negotiations," Betsa said.
Things are more complicated when it comes to joining NATO. The alliance will very likely not accept a country currently at war, while the view from Kyiv is that Ukraine is defending NATO's eastern flank.
"Of course, we emphasize that we may become a part of NATO after we win, not before. At the same time, we realize that NATO is our only security guarantee, and secondly, that Ukraine is already defending the eastern flank of NATO and is factually a part of the collective defense system. It needs to be legally recognized. We realize it will take a certain amount of time, while it is among our top priorities. We want the NATO summit in Vilnius to echo a clear signal of our future NATO membership," the ambassador told "Välisilm."
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy introduced his peace plan at the UN General Assembly last year, which all of Ukraine's partners supported. Especially important is the item about holding Russia accountable.
"The aggressor must bear full international responsibility. This must entail a trial and reparations, restoration of Ukraine. Only then can Ukraine be satisfied with the result. All of it requires the borders of Ukraine to be restored to their 1991 position. Those are our internationally recognized borders, and we will entertain no compromise as concerns them," Betsa remarked.
The ambassador admitted that the situation is complicated in many parts of the front line. "Unfortunately, strength or arms is the only thing Russia understands. That is why we must win on the battlefield, after which Russia will have to answer for its crimes against Ukraine and peace," she said.
The Ukrainian ambassador thanked Estonia for assistance and support. "Estonia has given Ukraine €370 million worth of aid since the start of the war. The largest contribution per capita among Ukraine's supporters. A colossal sum for a small country. I would take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, President Alar Karis, as well as Estonia's defense and foreign ministers for their steadfast support."
Betsa believes that Estonia's support for Ukraine will not waiver no matter the result of Riigikogu elections [in March].
"We must realize that Ukraine is fighting for the freedom of the entire democratic world. We are fighting not just for our country but also democratic values: freedom, dignity, human rights. Support for Ukraine is an investment in Estonian and EU security. The world's security today depends on how quickly Ukraine will win this war, which is what we need to proceed from. I hope I have answered diplomatically because I cannot comment on my country of residence's internal affairs. But I believe support will be retained as Estonia's security is directly tied to Ukraine's," she offered.
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Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski