Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is no longer pushing for NATO membership for Ukraine after understanding that the military alliance of Western countries fears the conflicts that could be generated as a result of Ukraine’s inclusion in the treaty.
“As for NATO, I calmed down on this issue a long time ago after we understood that NATO was not ready to accept Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an interview aired Monday night on ABC News.
“The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia,” the president added.
Referring to NATO membership, Zelenskyy said that he does not want to be president of a “country which is begging something on its knees.”
“We are not going to be that country, and I don’t want to be that president,” he explained through an interpreter.
Russia’s insistence that Ukraine be prevented from becoming a NATO member appears to be one of Moscow’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbor. Putin has said that a NATO-member Ukraine raises the possibility of Kiev becoming host to US ballistic missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes, which needless to say, he considers a direct threat.
At the Bucharest Summit in 2008, NATO welcomed Ukraine’s candidacy, pledging that the country would eventually become a member, while declining to offer a precise timetable.
When asked by ABC about a Russian demand that Ukraine recognizes as independent two separatist pro-Russian regions in eastern Ukraine — Donetsk and Lugansk, Zelenskyy said he was open to discussions on the issue, as well as possible openings to peace talks with Russia.
“I’m talking about security guarantees,” he said.
Moscow has said it will stop its military operations in Ukraine if Kiev withdraws its NATO membership, recognizes Crimea as Russian territory and also the independence of the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.
“The people who elected me are not ready to surrender. We are not ready for ultimatums,” Zelenskyy said. “But we can discuss with Russia the future of Crimea and Donbas.”