NATO Official Suggests Ukraine Could Give Up Territory to End War

NATO Official Suggests Ukraine Could Give Up Territory to End War
(L–R) British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, U.S. President Joe Biden, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attend the first day of the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11, 2023. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A high-ranking official in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) floated the possibility of Ukraine giving up some of its territory to Russia in order to bring about an end to the conflict between the neighboring countries.

Stian Jenssen, the chief of staff for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, floated the possibility of Ukraine giving up territory during a Tuesday panel discussion in Arendal, Norway.

“I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory,” Mr. Jenssen said, according to Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper.

Mr. Jenssen went on to say that any peace terms will ultimately have to be agreeable to Ukraine, which has relied heavily on the assistance of the NATO alliance. The NATO official also suggested the alliance could offer membership to Ukraine as part of a deal if it does give up its territory.

“I’m not saying it has to be like this. But that could be a possible solution,” Mr. Jenssen said.

Giving Up Territory ‘Ridiculous’: Ukrainian Official

Mr. Jenssen’s proposal of ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia would go against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s repeated calls throughout the war to take back all Ukrainian territory currently controlled by Russia, including the Crimean Peninsula, which Russian forces seized in 2014.

Members of President Joe Biden’s administration have repeatedly affirmed commitments to support the Zelenskyy government until his forces can achieve battlefield successes that would give the Ukrainian government a favorable position in any potential peace deal with Russia. Officials from other NATO member nations have also repeatedly reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”

Mr. Jenssen’s comments now represent a high-level indication that NATO would be willing to accept the surrender of Ukrainian territory to end the war.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, appeared to criticize Mr. Jenssen’s rhetoric in a Tuesday past on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

“Trading territory for a NATO umbrella? It is ridiculous. That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations,” Mr. Podolyak wrote.

The Ukrainian presidential advisor also said that if Russian President Vladimir Putin “does not suffer a crushing defeat,” he will allow his regime to continue and stoke “Russia’s appetite for more” territory.

“Murderers should not be encouraged by appalling indulgences,” Mr. Podolyak added.

NATO Official Backtracks

Amid criticism over his remarks, Mr. Jenssen issued a new statement to Verdens Gang, softening his remarks about Ukraine giving up territory to Russia.

“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,” Mr. Jenssen told the Norwegian publication.

Mr. Jenssen reiterated that peace terms would be up to Ukraine to decide.

“If, and I emphasize if, you get to the point where you can negotiate, the military situation on the ground, territory, who controls what will be absolutely central, and will necessarily have a decisive influence on how a possible outcome of this war will look out,” he said. “Precisely for this reason, it is crucially important that we support the Ukrainians with what they need.”

Ukraine Counteroffensive Retakes Little Ground

Mr. Jenssen’s talk of Ukraine ceding territory comes as Ukrainian forces are about two months along in a counteroffensive to retake territory in the country’s east and south.

Thus far, Ukrainian forces have reported modest territorial gains, but Russia’s defensive networks of mines and trenches are still mostly intact.

During a Pentagon press briefing last week, a reporter asked if the U.S. overestimated Ukraine’s counteroffensive capabilities. Pentagon Press Secretary and Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder largely avoided commenting about the actual progress of the counteroffensive, but said U.S. support for the Ukrainian effort would continue.

“I’m not going to stand here at this podium and second guess a front-line commander in the Ukrainian military,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “They’re in a tough fight. We’ve known, they’ve known from the beginning that, regardless of when any counteroffensive started, it was going to be a tough fight. So that’s why you hear us say and it has the benefit of being true, that we’re going to continue to work with them to provide them with the capabilities they need, to include training.”

This week, the Biden administration announced the latest $200 million round of aid for the eastern European country.

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