NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also addressed the public on Friday evening. He went into the annexation of four Ukrainian territories by Russia after invalid votes. “That doesn’t change the nature of the conflict,” Stoltenberg noted. “It doesn’t change our support.”
Earlier in his speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin sealed the annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine by signing the relevant documents.
A Ukrainian journalist who was present asked the NATO Secretary General whether the alliance would accept Ukraine’s request for an expedited admission process. Here Stoltenberg remained vague. Without giving a clear answer, he declared: “Every democracy has the right to apply to join. The gate is open.” However, this decision requires the consensus of all NATO members. The military alliance is primarily helping Ukraine with immediate help in self-defense.
In general, a candidate country must not be involved in international conflicts and disputes over its borders in order to be accepted into NATO, as is the case with Ukraine.
Stoltenberg described Putin’s partial mobilization as a “critical moment”. It was “the most serious escalation since the invasion”. None of this shows strength, it shows weakness: “The war is not going according to Putin’s plan. Putin has failed in his strategic goals.”
Neither the annexation nor the partial mobilization will change anything about NATO’s support for Ukraine, emphasized the Secretary General. When asked by journalists about nuclear threat scenarios, which the Russian President spoke about several times, and the danger of an escalation, Jens Stoltenberg made it clear once again: “We have an aggressor and a victim. That is why we support Ukraine so unequivocally.” Putin’s “nuclear rhetoric” is “dangerous for the world and for everyone. But it’s even more dangerous if we allow Putin to win.”
That would send a devastating signal to other authoritarian rulers around the world that it pays to take over and annex neighbors’ territories by military force. Therefore, the referendums will not be recognized and the fight will continue to be supported. “Putin will not stop us from supporting Ukraine. He won’t be able to do that.” And: “If we accept this annexation, then we accept nuclear blackmail against Russia. In this way, Moscow could achieve what it wants.”
More than once, however, Stoltenberg stated: “We are not part of the conflict, but we support Ukraine in its right to self-defense.” Responsibility for ending the war rests with Putin. “If President Putin stops fighting, there will be peace. If President Zelenskyy stops fighting, Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent sovereign nation in Europe.”