Zelenskyy: Ukraine caught in a paradox on NATO guarantees, accession

Estonian President Alar Karis with Ukraine's Volodomyr Zelenskyy at a joint press conference in Kyiv, Friday, June 2, 2023.
Estonian President Alar Karis with Ukraine's Volodomyr Zelenskyy at a joint press conference in Kyiv, Friday, June 2, 2023. Source: Raigo Pajula

Ukraine is in something of a paradoxical situation whereby the only security that really counts would be accession to NATO, while at the same time, given the country is at war following the invasion by Russia launched last year, it cannot join the alliance, nor drag other member states into that affray, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy says.

Nonetheless, Ukraine would want some security guarantees from NATO, Zelenskyy added.

Speaking at a press conference Friday alongside Estonian President Alar Karis, who was visiting Kyiv, the Ukrainian leader refuted a line taken by some analysts, that Kyiv's acceptance of security guarantees ahead of July's NATO Vilnius summit would indicate Ukrainian tacit, or otherwise, acceptance of being left out of the alliance.

"However, today, if we are talking about security guarantees for Ukraine, we are talking about sanctions [on Russia], financial guarantees, weaponry and so on. Everything that exists is not in the form of documents, but in the form of 'cash'. If we wish to put all this into documentation or on paper, then everything must be clearly indicated and supported by concrete actions, to ensure security guarantees will work. Such a security guarantee would last as long as it took for Ukraine received the main security guarantee, ie NATO membership," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy also spoke to ERR journalist Astrid Kannel, who was also in Kyiv, and said that his country could not drag NATO or any member state into a "hot" war, meaning it is not viable to join the alliance at this point in time, in any case.

"We understand that concern. And we understand that we cannot drag any NATO country into war. As a result, we have grasped that we will not get to become a member of NATO while this war is still going on - not because we don't want to, but because we simply can't," the president went on.

In fact, Article 10 of the NATO treaty, which deals with enlargement and the accession of new members, does not reference conflict affecting a prospective member state at the time, though it does state there must be unanimity on that state joining, among all existing member states.

NATO itself says "Any decision to invite a country to join the alliance is taken by the North Atlantic Council," on the basis of the consensus of all member states.

One expert has it that "One formal condition for NATO membership is full control over one's own territory."1

In any case, Zelenskyy remained thankful for all of NATO member Estonia's material and spiritual support since February 2022, noting that the country has given perhaps more than any other, particularly in relative terms.

News portal Delfi also reported on Zelenskyy's speech alongside Alar Karis, highlighting the importance of cracking down on Russian sanctions evasion.

"We have to patch up these types holes regarding Russia. We have to fight against the evasion of sanctions, and make that impossible," the Ukrainian president said.

As for defense, Delfi reported the Ukrainian president reiterated his call for a so-called air defense Patriot Coalition, after the missile system of the same name, putting the figure of missiles needed at 600.

On the long-awaited spring counter-offensive against Russia, given it is now June, both ERR and Delfi reported that Zelelnskyy did not want to answer that question.

"First of all, it's not a movie. I don't know how to answer that question," he said, adding that Russia will understand itself when the offensive starts. "When our counterattack will begin, you will see for yourself."

In an interview published Saturday, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine was now ready to start the counter-offensive.

President Karis confirmed Estonia's support for Ukraine's accession to both NATO and the EU

President Alar Karis arrived in Kyiv on Thursday for his official visit, and met with Zelenskyy on Friday, where the pair talked about support for and economic cooperation with Ukraine, and the country's post-war reconstruction, as well as scope for prosecuting people involved in war crimes, and under international law.

The Estonian president was also accompanied by a 24-member business delegation on his visit, while he was also joined by Minister of Economic Affairs and IT Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200), and Tallinn University of Technology (Taltech) rector Tiit Land and vice-rector Tiit Lukk.

Zelenskyy to WSJ: No point going to Vilnius Summit if no confirmation of NATO accession

ERR reports that in an interview with President Zelenskyy published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) today, Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said there was no reason to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius, July 11-12, if no confirmation of potential accession to the alliance is given there.

He also added a belief that some NATO countries "are so afraid of Russia that they don't want to let Ukraine into the alliance."

1 Galeotti, M., 2023, 'Russia's Five-Day War', Osprey Publishing, p.17.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: ERR interviewer Astrid Kannel, Delfi.

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