Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked NATO to endorse his plan for the country’s candidacy for the military alliance. This support would send a “real signal” to Russia, Zelenski remarked in a conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, at a time when Moscow has mobilized troops near the borders with Ukraine and in which the The Donbas conflict between the Ukrainian army and the Kremlin-backed pro-Russian separatists is experiencing a new escalation that worries the West. “NATO is the only way to end the war,” Zelenski said on Tuesday.
The words of the Ukrainian leader about his telephone conversation with Stoltenberg, included in a note from his Cabinet, have outraged Moscow, which has accused him of wanting to heat up the conflict in the East. Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has warned, would not only not help Kiev, but would “aggravate the situation.”
Belonging to the Atlantic Alliance is “deeply unacceptable” for many citizens of the Donbas, the Kremlin spokesman remarked to the press, insisting that Zelenski’s rhetoric could destabilize the region. “So far we do not see an intention on the part of Ukraine to calm down in any way and move away from belligerent issues,” Peskov has settled. Moscow, which supports the pro-Russian separatists militarily and politically, has denied its participation in the conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are experiencing a war that has lasted seven years and that adds some 14,000 dead, according to the UN, and several million of displaced people.
The NATO secretary general has expressed his support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but has avoided compromising and clarifying whether the Alliance is in favor of paving the way for Ukraine to join the so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP), a program of practical advice and support for countries aspiring to join NATO and in which Bosnia is currently involved. The Alliance has so far avoided giving these expectations, understanding that they can open a conflictive path. “I called President Zelensky to express concern about Russia’s military activities in and around Ukraine and the continuing violations of the ceasefire,” Stoltenberg said on Twitter. “We remain committed to our close partnership,” he added.
In order to aspire to membership, Kiev would also have to implement in-depth reforms of its defense and security sectors. Changes to which Zelenski, who made the fight against the corruption that gangrene the country and put an end to the war in the East as the main objective when he came to power in 2019, has said he is willing and ready. Ukraine is “committed to reforming” its army and defense sector, Zelenski told the NATO secretary general on Tuesday, but reforms alone “would not stop Russia.”
The Ukrainian leader, who also spoke with the American president, Joe Biden, and with his Canadian counterparts, Justin Trudeau, and British, Boris Johnson, urged to increase the pressure on Russia and has called on NATO to strengthen its military presence in the Black sea region. Ukraine reported on Tuesday the death of two of its soldiers shot during the fighting with pro-Russian separatists; 21 soldiers killed so far this year. The self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk accuses Kiev of killing a child with a drone.
Observers and investigative media have documented the movements of Russian troops, displaced less than a hundred meters from the borders with Ukraine, and coming from remote places such as Siberia. A mobilization that experts see as a pulse from the Kremlin to the new administration of the president of the United States, Joe Biden, and as a show of force before the European Union, when Moscow goes through the worst moment in its relations with the West.
The ostentation with which the troops move, says analyst Maxin Samorukov, a member of the Carnegie Moscow Center, “confirms that Russia is making saber rattling instead of watching a blitzkrieg.” Despite this, the expert writes, the degree of tension can lead to a misstep that leads to another type of confrontation.
The new escalation in the last war in Europe, at a point also geostrategic for the West in its relations with Moscow, worries the European Union, the United States (also a member of NATO) and the Atlantic Alliance, which have rushed to express their support for Kiev in the face of the warming situation, which they consider a worrying military movement and recruitment in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 with a referendum not recognized internationally and which was held with the presence of forces Russians in the territory. An annexation that preceded in just a few days the beginning of the Donbas confrontation and that occurred after a pro-European citizen and anti-corruption movement overthrew the pro-Russian president Víktor Yanukovich in Kiev.
Moscow traditionally opposes Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO, which have grown in recent years. The Kremlin argues that membership would violate the Western military alliance’s promise not to expand to its borders.
The Kremlin defends that it can mobilize its troops within its territory where it deems necessary and that this does not pose any threat to any country. In addition, Moscow has raised the pulse and announced that this month it will carry out more than 4,000 training exercises in different military districts of the country.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.