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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Only NATO or nuclear weapons can save Ukraine from Russia: Estonia’s foreign minister

The Estonian foreign minister urged NATO allies not to exclude Ukraine from the transnational alliance in exchange for a peace with Russia, warning that doing so would leave Ukraine stuck in a “grey area” where its only means of deterring more aggression from Moscow would be increasingly devastating weapons.

Urma’s Reinsalu customs news week that the NATO alliance cannot ignore Kiev’s accession ambitions – which it says remains the “elephant in the room” – while Russian revanchism poses a threat to Ukraine.

National leaders and NATO officials have defended the alliance’s “open-door” policy, dismissed Russian calls for Ukraine’s exclusion, and repeatedly assured Kiev that it will one day be welcomed into the transatlantic bloc, despite the emphasis on joining as a long-term goal should be.

Reinsalu, now in his second term as Estonia’s Foreign Minister, told news week that NATO’s commitment to its “open door” policy and a possible membership of Ukraine “is far from sufficient”.

“If we say that after this war we would practically not see Ukraine as a member of NATO, it would mean that we fear – or predict – that Russia will attack again and then the NATO countries will be drawn into a world war , or at least a war for the European continent,” said Reinsalu.

“This is already an admission that a large-scale war will be repeated. And that’s something I think is very dangerous from our point of view that we’re already admitting we haven’t tamed it [the danger]or we do not know the outcome of the current war.”

Kiev has never given up on its goal of NATO membership, a goal enshrined in the national constitution and enjoying record support among Ukrainian voters.

NATO will not allow Ukraine to join in the middle of the war. Ukrainian officials have proposed the Kyiv Security Pact as an interim arrangement that would allow NATO allies to better assist the country while avoiding a direct conflict with Russia. However, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that this is not a substitute for full NATO membership.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the UK, France and Germany have proposed a tripartite security pact with Ukraine in lieu of NATO membership. The leaders of the three nations reportedly raised the offer during Zelenskyy’s visit to Europe in February.

The plan would reportedly allow advanced NATO weapons to be deployed to Ukraine, but would not provide protection for Kiev under Article 5 of the alliance’s Collective Defense Clause, nor would it station NATO troops on Ukrainian soil.

“I’m not buying it,” Reinsalu said of the reported suggestion. “We already had that with the famous Budapest Memorandum,” he added, referring to the 1994 deal by which Ukraine surrendered Soviet-era nuclear warheads in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the United States and Britain

“You can’t copy NATO,” said Reinsalu. “What’s the point of copying NATO if you make it clear it’s not NATO? It’s like half NATO. I would be quite suspicious of this replica.”

“Honestly, the only guarantee other than NATO would be the delivery of nuclear weapons to Ukraine,” Reinsalu said, stressing that such a move is impossible and undesirable given the NATO nuclear powers’ anti-proliferation commitments.

“This is an academic comment on the context of these proposals as to which guarantees would work in practice and which would not,” he added.

Leaving Ukraine outside the West’s security umbrella, Reinsalu said, would leave Kiev in limbo and undermine the country’s recovery.

“Imagine if we don’t give post-war Article 5 guarantees to Ukraine,” he said. “So we will then encourage Ukraine to build up their self-defense in a ‘hedgehog strategy’ like they are in the Wild West, standing in their fortress with guns and waiting for Russia.

“I think it will create a gray area in the middle of Europe. It would be a big negative signal for their aspirations towards the European Union, from a security perspective, in terms of investment pledges and everything else.”

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