NATO’s promise to one day accept Ukraine into the bosom was an “ugly compromise”, but it was not to blame for the threat of conflict with Russia, the former military secretary general said.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who as NATO chief announced in 2008 that Ukraine would “become a member”, told the Financial Times that Vladimir Putin’s demands for the alliance to relinquish that promise were a false pretext for a “revanchist crusade.” of the Russian president.
“He is a man whose world fell apart in 1989,” de Hoop Scheffer said, referring to the turbulent events of that year, including the fall of the Berlin Wall before the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Whatever NATO agrees with. . . Putin would be the same Putin. “
He continued: “Ukraine’s surrender is now the wrong path. . . because no one can guarantee that [Putin’s] appetite will not grow. Putin wants much more from Ukraine and Georgia. Belarus, Moldova, Armenia: he wants his empire back.
Russia claims that NATO has violated agreements reached after the collapse of the Soviet Union to prevent it from expanding into Moscow’s former satellite states. NATO has insisted that sovereign states have the right to choose their own foreign, defense and security policies.
In talks this month, Russia called on the United States and NATO to swear never to accept Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance as part of a series of agreements it says are needed to protect its security. The Kremlin sees Ukraine’s takeover as a red line that the US-led alliance should never cross.
Moscow has deployed more than 106,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is threatening a “military-technical” response if these demands are ignored.
NATO’s pledge to Ukraine at a tumultuous summit in Bucharest was a confusing consolation for supporters of Kiev’s membership – led by then-US President George W. Bush – who were defeated in a bid to get the alliance to agree to a formal procedure. for the acceptance of the country.
“In retrospect, when I look back on this now, it would be preferable for NATO to reaffirm its open door policy. . . but that’s easy to say now, “said de Hoop Scheffer, a former Dutch foreign minister.
“NATO is in trouble because we told Ukraine that you can enter the house, but you are not allowed on the porch,” he continued. “Compromises are ugly. . . and NATO has been living with that compromise ever since. “
In talks with Russia this month, the United States and NATO flatly rejected Moscow’s request, saying it contradicted one of the alliance’s founding principles.
Supporting this position, de Hoop Scheffer said that in fact Kiev has no prospects for membership due to the same opposition that existed in 2008.
“In the foreseeable and unpredictable future, they will not become members of NATO. And I think the whole group around the table in Bucharest knew that, “he said. “It was already clear in the eyes of opponents [of Ukraine’s membership] it was until hell froze. There was no time limit. “
“[Putin] Of course, he was angry at the wording, “de Hoop Scheffer recalled. “Although then and until now he knows very well … . that NATO and the Americans will never go to war with Russia over Ukraine.