Zelensky says 'no open door' for Ukraine into NATO, questions commitment

The president expressed more criticism of the treaty alliance as he sought independent security guarantees from regional neighbors • "We have heard about an open door, but that we should not enter"

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022.  (photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talks during an interview with Reuters in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022.
(photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine does not have an open door to North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership, during a televised speech Tuesday, and will thus seek a way to protect Ukraine independently via security guarantees.

"If we cannot enter (NATO) through open doors, then we must cooperate with the associations with which we can, which will help us, protect us ... and have separate guarantees," Zelensky said in a video meeting of representatives of the member states of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

"It is clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO – we understand that," he said of his country's bid to join the alliance, which was launched back in 2008. "For years, we have heard about the supposedly ‘open door’, but we have also heard that we should not enter – and this is true and we must admit it. 

“I am glad that our people are beginning to understand this and rely only on themselves and our partners who help us.”

 An aerial view shows a residential building destroyed by shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 3, 2022 (credit: Maksim Levin/Reuters) An aerial view shows a residential building destroyed by shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 3, 2022 (credit: Maksim Levin/Reuters)

NATO announced that Ukraine and Georgia were welcome to join at the April 2008 Bucharest Summit, which received Albania and Croatia into the alliance. Georgia was subsequently invaded by Vladimir Putin’s Russia that same August, as the Russian president has presented the desire of neighboring countries to join the alliance as an existential threat to his country. America’s then-vice president Joe Biden said in 2009 that the US continues to support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO.

Ahead of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Putin reportedly demanded that Ukraine and Georgia be banned from NATO membership, which violated its open-door policy and was thus not agreed to.

“We emphasize that we need new formats of interaction. If we cannot enter NATO's open door, then we must work with communities available, communities that will help us. Like yours. And have some guarantees. We would like to have reliable guarantees that will work for us and for you,” Zelensky told the JEF, which includes Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

ZELENSKY, WHO has been critical of NATO members’ reluctance to impose a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace amid Russia’s aerial bombardment of major urban cities, spoke candidly about Ukraine’s security situation – and that of the rest of the region – particularly in regards to NATO.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine destroyed everything that security in our region – and I am sure international security – was based on. The weight of the organizations we all hoped for, the force of international conventions. It has also called into question the world's most powerful alliance –  NATO,” said Zelensky in his speech, which was translated in its entirety by TSN Ukraine.

“We hear a lot that World War III could begin if NATO closes Ukraine’s skies… because of this, Russian troops can bomb peaceful Ukrainian cities and kill people.”

Zelensky further stressed that Ukrainian skies need to be protected just as much as those of NATO-allied nations, citing a Russian drone strike in the Ukrainian city of Lviv – a mere 20 km. (12 miles) from NATO borders.

Ukraine's president went as far as to question NATO’s commitment to upholding Article 5 – NATO’s mutual-defense clause, where an attack on one NATO country is considered an attack on all members. “In order for Article 5 to work, there must be confidence… right now, there is no confidence about it,” Zelensky declared.

"What will be NATO's response to allies in Eastern Europe if they are already seeking protection, if Russian missiles hit, God forbid, if Russian planes enter their territory?”

NATO leaders have previously dismissed such suggestions. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Lithuania last week that the United States has a "sacrosanct" commitment to Article 5.

European countries, especially those bordering Russia, are now unsure that the alliance will not be afraid to react if Russian missiles and planes fly to them – an issue of increased importance as the war unfolds and many fear that Putin will not halt his army’s westward push at Ukraine’s borders, Zelensky explained.

“Russian state propagandists are still repeating that the war against Ukraine is just the beginning. People from the Kremlin also speak about it officially… they are talking about it right now; they say this about many of you.”

“How can we all come to peace and give Ukraine, give Europe, give the world guarantees of security… to replace the old ones, which obviously no longer work?” he asked.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeals to Russians to stage protests over Russian forces' seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, during an address from Kyiv, Ukraine March 4, 2022 in this still image from video.  (credit: Courtesty of Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeals to Russians to stage protests over Russian forces' seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, during an address from Kyiv, Ukraine March 4, 2022 in this still image from video. (credit: Courtesty of Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS )

The Ukrainian president also stressed the need to increase economic pressure on Russia until its aggressive rhetoric and actions change.

“The Russian military machine can still be stopped. You can still stop the killing of people,” Zelensky concluded.

Ongoing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia continued on Tuesday.