Scholz Reportedly Recommended Zelensky to Abandon Plans to Join NATO Before Russian Op in Ukraine
In mid-March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his country must accept the fact that it won't join NATO. The statement came a few weeks after Russia launched its special operation in Ukraine to demilitarise and de-Nazify the country.
Five days before the start of Moscow's special military operation in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
to abandon his country's ambition to join NATO, The Wall Street Journal
(WSJ) has reported.
The newspaper claimed that on 19 February, Scholz "made one last push for a settlement" of tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
According to the WSJ, the German chancellor told Zelensky at the time that "Ukraine should renounce its NATO aspirations and declare neutrality as part of a wider European security deal between the West and Russia", a pact that "would be signed by Mr Putin and Mr Biden, who would jointly guarantee Ukraine's security".
The news outlet argued that Zelensky's subsequent rejection of Scholz's proposal purportedly "left German officials worried that the chances of peace were fading" and prompted EU leaders to try to organise a summit between the Russian and US presidents.
The efforts were mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who reportedly "spent the night of 20 February alternately on the phone with Mr Putin and Mr Biden".
"The Frenchman was still talking with Mr Putin at 3 a.m. Moscow time, negotiating the wording of a press release announcing the plan for a US-Russian summit", but on 21 February, the Russian president "called Mr Macron back" and "the summit was off", with Putin telling his French counterpart that "he had decided to recognise the independence" of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) in eastern Ukraine, according to the WSJ.
Russia's Special Op in Ukraine
Russia's recognition of the Donbass republics was followed by Moscow beginning a special military operation
to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine on 24 February, with President Putin stressing at the time that Russia doesn't want to occupy the country. The Russian Defence Ministry, in turn, emphasised that the operation only targets Ukraine's military infrastructure with high-precision weapon strikes and that civilians are not in danger.
Earlier this week, the ministry announced the implementation of all the goals of the special operation's first stage and the planned regrouping of troops for the final stage of the operation.
Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that during the first stage, the Russian command planned to force the enemy to concentrate its men and materiel in the Kiev and Chernigov directions.
He emphasised that the goal was "to contain" the enemy without storming the cities, in order to avoid losses among the civilian population and defeat Ukrainian army units so that Kiev could not use them against Russian troops advancing on Donbass.
Zelensky Says Ukraine Should Accept Fact It Won't Join NATO
Last month, Zelensky made it clear that Kiev has heard loud and clear that it will not be joining NATO, a reality that Ukrainians must come to terms with.
"It's clear that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand this. We are reasonable people. For years we were told about supposedly 'open doors', but have also now heard that we cannot enter. This is the truth and this needs to be admitted", Zelensky said during a meeting of the leaders of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force.
The issue of Ukraine not joining NATO was part and parcel of the security guarantee proposals rolled out by the Russian Foreign Ministry in December. Commenting on the US response, President Putin stated that Washington had basically ignored the Kremlin's proposals.
"We did not see our three key demands adequately considered: stopping NATO's expansion, refusing to use strike weapons systems near Russia's borders, and returning the bloc's military infrastructure in Europe to how it was in 1997", Putin said.
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