Speed Reads

To NATO or not to NATO

Ukraine says its U.K. ambassador did not offer to bargain away NATO aspirations in Russia standoff

Ukraine's foreign ministry said Monday that a comment by Kyiv's ambassador in London about NATO and Russia has been "taken out of context." Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told BBC News that Ukraine could be "flexible" about NATO membership, perhaps dropping its constitutionally enshrined aspirations to join the Western military alliance, "especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it."

British officials told BBC it was "too early" to tell if Prystaiko's comment was a genuine negotiating chip. Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko clarified on social media — in English — that no, it was not. 

Russia, which is surrounding most of Ukraine with an estimated 130,000 troops and heavy weaponry, is demanding that NATO vow it will never admit Ukraine. NATO is refusing to change its open-door policy to appease Moscow, arguing it is a core tenet of NATO that sovereign nations get to choose their own alliances. Still, Ukraine is nowhere close to becoming a NATO member.

NATO's mutual defense clause means that if one country in the alliance is attacked, the other countries will come to its aid. Putin says he sees NATO's expansion into Central and Eastern Europe as a dangerous encroachment into Russia's sphere of influence. But as Nikolenko suggests, using the threat of invasion to keep countries out of NATO might only make such security guarantees more attractive to Russia's neighbors.