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Media: NATO Official retracts controversial suggestion about Ukraine exchanging territory for NATO membership

by Nate Ostiller August 16, 2023 8:19 PM 2 min read
Stian Jenssen (L), director of the private office of the NATO Secretary General, talks to NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, during an informal meeting of NATO Ministers of foreign affairs on May 15, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Xander Heinl/Photothek via Getty Images)
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Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to the NATO secretary-general, walked back his previous comments about Ukraine potentially giving up territory to Russia in return for NATO membership, the Norwegian newspaper VG reported on Aug. 16.

“It was a mistake,” Jenssen told VG, the same paper that reported on his comments the day before. “It was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine,” he clarified, “and I shouldn’t have said it that way.”

The original suggestion, which was characterized on Twitter by Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukraine's Presidential Office, as “ridiculous,” also prompted further clarifications from NATO.

An unnamed NATO official spoke with Ukrainska Pravda later on Aug. 15, and stated that there had been no change in NATO’s position on Ukraine, which was “clear and unwavering,” and that it is up to Ukraine itself to decide how and if it wants to negotiate for peace.

Jenssen reaffirmed that stance in his comments to VG on Aug. 16, arguing that it was an “if” the military situation on the ground got to the point when there could be negotiations, but stressed that “we are not there now.”

Although he would not specify what shape any future security guarantees for Ukraine might take, Jenssen did state that there “must be a framework that ensures this does not happen again.”

He also argued that the primary focus should be on supporting Ukraine’s fight on the battlefield, and that “weapons are the way to peace.”

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