Zelensky says Russia pushed Ukraine to join NATO when it invaded in 2014

16 December 2021, 12:56 PM

Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its military aggression in the Donbas have encouraged Ukraine to seek NATO membership, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“I believe Russia basically nudged Ukraine to join NATO when it invaded Ukraine in 2014,” the Ukrainian president said after meeting Stoltenberg in Brussels on Dec. 16.

“I actually think Russia is now paving Ukraine’s thorny way to becoming a NATO member.”

Zelensky added that public support in Ukraine for joining NATO had grown dramatically immediately after the start of the war with Russia eight years ago.

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The Ukrainian president also said that before the war, at least half of the Ukrainian population had not expected any aggression from neighboring countries it had presumed to be friendly.

However, once the war flared up, most people changed their minds, he said.

“A potential large-scale war could result in thousands or even millions of casualties,” Zelensky said.

“We definitely do not want to let that happen. NATO is not bound by treaty to defend Ukraine, but if the Ukrainian army is defeated, NATO will have a duty to its member states.  NATO is committed to collectively defending its member countries. Today Ukraine, albeit not a NATO member, finds itself at the forward position of the war.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Dec. 10 said that if Ukraine developed closer ties with NATO it would cause a large-scale conflict in Europe.

Russia has since demanded a reversal of the decision of 2008 Bucharest Summit, at which NATO agreed that Ukraine and Georgia could become members of the alliance.

In response, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called upon the West not to give in to Russia’s demands that there be no more eastward expansion of NATO.

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