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kyiv’s absence from NATO after war with Russia would be “suicidal”, says Ukraine’s foreign minister

Paul Ronzheimer is the deputy editor-in-chief of BILD and a senior journalist reporting for Axel Springer, the parent company of POLITICO.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has warned European allies that it would be “suicidal” not to accept Ukraine into NATO after the war with Russia ends.

Kuleba’s comments come ahead of a NATO summit in mid-July, when kyiv’s membership bid will be the most politically sensitive point of discussion. Ukraine is seeking a commitment from the defense alliance on its NATO aspirations, but several allies say a serious NATO discussion on Ukraine can only happen after Russian forces are no longer on its soil.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on June 22 that the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12 must focus in strengthening Ukraine’s military power instead of opening a process for kyiv to join the transatlantic alliance.

“After the war is over, it will be suicide for Europe not to accept Ukraine into NATO because it will mean that the option of… war will remain open,” Kuleba told Axel Springer, POLITICO’s parent company, in an interview. Friday in Kiev.

“The only way to close the door on Russian aggression against Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space as a whole is to bring Ukraine into NATO, because Russia will not dare to repeat this experience again,” Kuleba said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy envisions Ukraine joining NATO, as well as the EU, once kyiv has repelled Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Ukraine’s ambassador to NATO, Natalia Galibarenko, told POLITICO in late June that kyiv is looking for “some kind of invitation, or at least compromise … to see the schedule and modalities of our membership” at the Vilnius summit.

In the interview, Kuleba pushed back against Germany and others advocating against such a compromise, warning against an outcome similar to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, when Berlin and Paris rejected Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO membership.

“Don’t repeat the mistake Chancellor Merkel made in Bucharest in 2008 when she fiercely opposed any progress towards Ukraine’s NATO membership,” he said.

“This decision opened the door for Putin to invade Georgia and then continue his destabilizing efforts in the region and eventually illegally annex Crimea,” Kuleba said. “Because if Ukraine had been accepted into NATO in 2014, there (would not have been) the illegal annexation of Crimea. It would not be a war in Donbas, there would not be this large-scale invasion,” he said.

Kuleba rejected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s remarks that it will be “impossible” for Ukraine to win against Russia, saying he is “tired of countering all these nonsense arguments.”

“Everything is blah blah blah,” Kuleba said.

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