Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said last week that Ukraine is “shedding blood” for a “NATO mission” in candid remarks about the relationship between Kyiv and the Western military alliance.
“At the NATO Summit in Madrid (in June 2022), it was clearly delineated that over the coming decade, the main threat to the alliance would be the Russian Federation. Today, Ukraine is eliminating this threat,” Reznikov said in an interview on Ukrainian TV last week.
“We are carrying out NATO’s mission today. They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons,” he added.
Reznikov’s comments reflect Russia’s view that they are not just fighting against Ukrainian forces in the war but also against the US and NATO. Reznikov insisted that Ukraine would eventually become a NATO member and said it was already a “de facto” part of the alliance since Kyiv is already armed with so much advanced NATO military equipment.
While Ukraine was promised eventual NATO membership in 2008, it has been repeatedly denied official NATO membership in recent years. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hasn’t given up and said Wednesday that his country needs more than NATO’s “open door.”
“For today, just support for Ukraine from colleagues in NATO and support in the form of rhetoric about open doors is not enough for Ukraine. Namely, not enough to motivate our state … our soldiers,” Zelensky said.
In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion, Moscow was seeking a guarantee from the US that Ukraine wouldn’t ever join NATO, but the Biden administration refused. Shortly after the invasion, Zelensky said he was told privately that Ukraine won’t be joining NATO.
“I requested them personally to say directly that we are going to accept you into NATO in a year or two or five, just say it directly and clearly, or just say no,” Zelensky said in March. “And the response was very clear, you’re not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open.”