A senior NATO official has apologized for suggesting that Ukraine should make peace with Russia and give up some of its territory in exchange for NATO membership. Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, made the controversial remarks in an interview with a Norwegian newspaper on Monday.
Jenssen said that Ukraine should consider a “peace with Russia” scenario, in which it would accept the loss of Crimea and parts of the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian government since 2014. He also claimed that such a move would pave the way for Ukraine’s integration into NATO, which has been a long-standing aspiration of Kyiv.
However, Jenssen’s comments sparked a strong backlash from Ukrainian officials and politicians, who accused him of being pro-Russian and undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Jenssen’s proposal was “unacceptable” and “a betrayal of the values and principles of NATO”. He also demanded an apology from Stoltenberg and a clarification of NATO’s position on Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Jenssen issued a statement expressing his regret for his “mistake” and apologizing to Ukraine and its people. He said that his views did not reflect those of NATO or Stoltenberg, who has repeatedly reaffirmed NATO’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also said that he had no authority to make any proposals on behalf of NATO or to speak on behalf of the Secretary-General.
Jenssen’s apology came as tensions between Ukraine and Russia remain high, amid reports of increased Russian military activity near the Ukrainian border and in the Black Sea. Ukraine has been seeking closer ties with NATO and the European Union, as well as more security assistance from its Western allies, to deter further Russian aggression. However, Russia has warned that any expansion of NATO to include Ukraine would be a “red line” and a threat to its security interests.