Experts reject former NATO sec gen proposal for Ukraine joining without occupied zones

Flags of NATO and Ukraine.
Flags of NATO and Ukraine. Source: Ministry of Defense

Some Estonian experts reject a concept floated by former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen whereby Ukraine would accede to the alliance, but without those areas currently occupied by the Russian Federation, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reports.

This would be unacceptable from a Ukrainian perspective, they say.

Kalev Stoicescu (Eesti 200), chair of the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee, said such a move would: "Mean that Ukraine would have to surrender those of its territories which Russia has occupied and that it still controls," referring primarily to Crimea, annexed illegally in 2014, and the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

"I don't think that Ukraine is ready for that right now. So long as there remains hope that Ukraine can still liberate its land, be it fully or for the most part, such an agreement is not viable," Stoicescu told AK.

Stoicescu did however also reference Finland's Winter War with the Soviet Union, which resulted ultimately in its loss of vast swathes of territory, including the city of Viipuri (Vyborg), much of Karjala (Karelia), and the Petsamo region, which gave the country direct access to the Arctic Ocean.

Finland formally joined NATO this year.

Holger Mölder, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) lecturer in law, meanwhile said that in any case a) an agreement needs to be recognized bilaterally or multilaterally and b) further complications are brought by the fact that Russian-occupied territory is not unchanging in either direction.

"We will need to delineate the boundaries along which this so-called division is to take place. What are these occupied areas – because these are also constantly changing," he told AK.

"The prerequisite of any international agreement is that it is recognized by both parties," Mölder added.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary general 2009-2014, said admitting Ukraine into the alliance even without the occupied zones would be demonstration of Russia's inability to head off that outcome, thought to be a major factor in Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine starting February 2022.

Rasmussen has been a lone voice, however, AK reported.

Under his proposal, the famous Article Five collective defense principle would not apply to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.

Rasmussen's rationale included the fact that while Germany today is a NATO member, originally, only West Germany was admitted to NATO, in 1955, while East Germany remained in the Soviet sphere of influence.

However, the difference here is that the Western Allies and Stalin had come to an agreement a decade earlier on the carving up of Germany into occupation zones, rather than the Soviet Union unilaterally invading part of Germany ahead of the accession process beginning.

Estonia's current border does not incorporate territory originally agreed upon with the fledgling Soviet state in 1920 and which is now occupied by the Soviet Union's successor state, the Russian Federation – principally the area around Petseri, and also Jaanilinn, on the East bank of the Narva River.

Ukraine failed to obtain any specific date by which it might acceded to NATO, at the Vilnius Summit in the summer.

Its status in terms of NATO accession will however again be on the table at next year's summit in Washington, marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the alliance.

Fogh Rasmussen's logic in addition to that noted above would see the rump of Ukraine in NATO acting as a bulwark against a still-aggressive Russia, the removal of a gray zone, and the addition of battle-hardened Ukrainian armed forces which, he said, would serve as an example to other European powers, as well as being an asset in and of itself.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaaamera,' reporter Vahur Lauri.

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