During a joint press conference at Skridstrup Airbase in Denmark on Sunday, Aug. 20, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky teased the idea of trading the Russian city of Belgorod for a coveted spot in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Zelenskys playful remark came in response to a query about potential territorial concessions in exchange for NATO membership.

However, Zelenskys tone was much firmer during the visit to the Netherlands, which took place several hours before his press conference in Denmark. There, he emphatically dismissed any possibility of territorial swaps.

Weve got one focus: peace. Weve outlined our vision and are prepared to discuss openly with our colleagues. The more unified the world is towards a just peace that fully restores Ukraines territorial integrity, the better, Zelensky said during a press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 

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Zelensky had initiated Ukraines accelerated entry into NATO in late September 2022. Progress gained momentum in July 2023 when NATO summit attendees in Vilnius agreed to streamline Ukraines path to joining the military-political alliance.

Simultaneously, the G7 countries expressed their commitment to providing security assurances to Ukraine.

Recently, given the slower-than-expected pace of the summer offensive, certain Western commentators and media outlets speculated that Ukraine might consider relinquishing certain occupied territories to Russia in exchange for NATO membership as a means to secure peace.

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Gov’t Overhaul, Peace Summit, Trump – Takeaways From Zelensky’s Press Conference

Zelensky said he was “not afraid” of another Trump presidency.

In particular, Stian Jenssen, head of the NATO Secretary Generals office, had earlier suggested that one of the options for resolving the war initiated by Russia against Ukraine could involve Ukraine giving up certain territories in exchange for NATO membership.

Following a big fuss, which his words have triggered among Ukrainian decision-makers, Jenssen clarified his position in an interview with the Norwegian publication VG, stating:

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“My comments during that time were part of a larger conversation about potential future scenarios for Ukraine. I shouldn’t have phrased it that way. It was a mistake.”

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