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Ukraine should be ‘independent’ – Stoltenberg

The NATO secretary general has endorsed negotiations as a way to end the conflict

NATO must continue to support Kiev so it can negotiate with Moscow about becoming an independent state, the US-led bloc’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Monday.

Speaking at the ceremony to admit Sweden into NATO, Stoltenberg repeated the bloc’s talking points about supporting Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, but chose to frame the very hypothetical peace talks in terms of independence and sovereignty.

“We must continue to strengthen Ukraine to show [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin that he will not get what he wants on the battlefield but must sit down and negotiate a solution where Ukraine is recognized and prevails as a sovereign, independent nation,” Stoltenberg said.

According to the Norwegian politician, Putin’s objective was “less NATO and more control over his neighbors” and “to destroy Ukraine as a sovereign state.” Stoltenberg insisted that Russia had failed because NATO is “bigger and stronger” and Ukraine is “closer to NATO membership than ever before.” 

He did not clarify how NATO membership related to independence and sovereignty.

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Sweden officially joins NATO

Stoltenberg also said that Sweden joining NATO shows that “no one can close” the bloc’s open door, which represents “the path of freedom and democracy.”

Sweden and Finland applied to the US-led bloc in May 2022, citing the Ukraine conflict as an alleged threat to their security. Finland was admitted in short order, but Sweden’s bid was delayed by prior disagreements with Türkiye and then Hungary.

Stockholm’s decision meant renouncing a policy of neutrality adopted way back in 1814, which had kept Sweden out of European and world wars.

Russia has repeatedly condemned NATO’s eastward expansion following the Cold War, arguing it has violated both written and spoken promises to Moscow given in exchange for allowing the reunification of Germany. 

Putin cited Ukraine’s overt bid to join the bloc as one of the reasons for launching Russia’s military operation in February 2022. According to the Russian president, the US and its allies have been trying to remake Ukraine into their anti-Russian proxy ever since the 2014 coup in Kiev. He set out Russia’s objectives as ensuring Ukraine’s neutrality, along with demilitarization and “denazification” of Kiev.

 

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