August 18, 2023: On Wednesday, Ukraine outraged by NATO official’s request that it could ‘give up territory’ to Russia and get NATO membership in return.
During a panel debate in Arendal, Norway, Jenssen stated, “I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory and get NATO membership in return,” Norwegian newspaper VG reported Tuesday. He also stated it was up to Ukraine to decide when and on what terms it negotiates.
In a follow-up interview on Wednesday, he told VG, “My statement about this was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine, and I shouldn’t have said it that way. It was a mistake.”
A NATO press officer to the new VG article when asked for a statement from Jenssen, director of the private office of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The initial comment caused a stir in Kyiv. His words appeared to be attacked by Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak on social media, who called the concept of giving up territory for NATO membership “ridiculous.”
Podolyak added that to do so would be “deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging an international criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials have repeatedly said Ukraine is unwilling to relinquish any of its territory to reach a peace deal to end the war with Russia.
In the follow-up interview, Jenssen said he had always stressed that any decision was entirely Ukraine’s.
“Many have commented that it is going slower than they had hoped. I would still like to add a seed of optimism to this, as I also said in the Arendal debate. One must remember that at the outbreak of war, there was a concern that Ukraine could collapse within weeks and days,” he told VG.
“It has not happened at all. They have shown a heroic effort against the superior power. The topic now is how much territory Ukraine can take back,” he said.
Kyiv applied for fast-track NATO membership in September 2022. NATO allies in 2023 stated a promise to eventual Ukraine membership under certain conditions, including “democratic and security sector reforms.”