NATO Chief Slams Russia’s ‘Nuclear Blackmail,’ Remains Cool to Ukraine’s Membership Bid
As Moscow moves to annex more land, Kyiv seeks speedier alliance action.
As Russia moved to illegally annex a huge portion of Ukraine, the head of NATO said that the world can not waver in its support of Kyiv even as Russia’s leader threatens to use nuclear weapons to “defend” stolen land.
In a Friday press conference from Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg blamed the Kremlin for “the most serious escalation of this conflict since the invasion on the 24th of February.” Stoltenberg called Vladimir Putin’s move “the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War…an area roughly the size of Portugal illegally seized by Russia at gunpoint.”
U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday said “I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it take” while announcing new sanctions on Russian targets.
In his own remarks from Moscow on Friday, Putin reiterated Russian threats to nuclear weapons to consolidate his control over areas of southeastern Ukraine, claiming that the United States' use of nuclear weapons during World War II served as precedent.
Said Stoltenberg: “If we accept the annexation by Russia and if the nuclear saber-rattling actually deterred us from supporting Ukraine, then we accept nuclear blackmailing. Then we accept that by threatening [use of] nuclear weapons, authoritarian powers like Russia can achieve exactly what they want.”
Neither side will be getting exactly what they want anytime soon. On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine would seek a “fast-track” application to join NATO. "De facto, we have already made our way to NATO. De facto, we have already proven compatibility with the Alliance's standards. They are real for Ukraine—real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” Zelenskyy said.
Stoltenberg, when asked about the application on Friday, answered as he has in previous engagements, without making any promises and referring to NATO’s rule that “membership, of course, has to be taken by all 30 allies and we take these decisions by consensus.”
That consensus seems a long way off. Hungary is openly opposed to Ukrainian membership and even Germany and France—allies who are supporting Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invaders—have opposed it in the past.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Ukraine’s NATO bid should be taken up “at a different time.”