Paul Ronzheimer is the deputy editor-in-chief of BILD and a senior journalist reporting for Axel Springer, the parent company of POLITICO.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned European allies that it would be “suicidal” not to accept Ukraine into NATO after the war with Russia is over.
Kuleba’s comments come ahead of a NATO summit in mid-July when Kyiv’s membership bid is set to be the most politically sensitive point of discussion. Ukraine is looking to get a commitment from the defense alliance on its NATO aspirations, but a number of allies say a serious discussion on Ukraine in NATO can happen only after Russian forces are no longer on its territory.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on June 22 that the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11-12 should focus on strengthening Ukraine’s military power instead of opening a process for Kyiv to join the transatlantic alliance.
“After the war ends, it will be suicidal for Europe not to accept Ukraine into NATO because it will mean that the option of … war will remain open,” Kuleba told Axel Springer, POLITICO’s parent company, in an interview on Friday in Kyiv.
“The only way to shut the door for the Russian aggression against Europe and Euro Atlantic space as a whole is to take Ukraine in NATO, because Russia will not dare to repeat this experience again,” Kuleba said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has a vision for Ukraine to join NATO, as well as the EU, once Kyiv has repelled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Ukrainian Ambassador to NATO Natalia Galibarenko told POLITICO in late June that Kyiv is seeking “some kind of invitation — or at least commitment … to look at the timeframe and modalities of our membership” at the Vilnius summit.
Kuleba in the interview pushed back on Germany and others advocating against such a commitment, warning against an outcome similar to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, when Berlin and Paris rejected NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
“Do not repeat the mistake Chancellor Merkel made in Bucharest in 2008 when she fiercely opposed any progress towards Ukraine’s NATO membership,” he said.
“This decision opened the door for Putin to invade Georgia and then to continue his destabilizing efforts in the region, and then eventually illegally annexing Crimea,” Kuleba said. “Because if Ukraine was accepted in NATO by 2014, there would not [have been] the illegal annexation of Crimea. It would not be war in Donbas, there would not be this large-scale invasion,” he said.
Kuleba rejected statements by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that it will be “impossible” for Ukraine to win against Russia, saying he is “tired of countering all these meaningless arguments.”
“It’s all just blah blah blah,” Kuleba said.