NATO Official Calls Comments on Ukraine Ceding Territory a ‘Mistake’

The suggestion for Ukraine to give up territory in exchange for NATO membership sparked a backlash from Ukrainian officials

A NATO official who sparked a backlash from Kyiv for suggesting Ukraine could cede territory to Russia in exchange for NATO membership appeared to walk back his comments on Wednesday.

“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,” Stian Jenssen, chief of staff for NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, told the Norwegian newspaper VG. “It is completely Ukraine’s independent right to decide.”

A day earlier, Jenssen said: “I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory, and get NATO membership in return.” The comments were significant since the US and NATO have maintained throughout the war that they back Ukraine’s demands for peace, which includes a full Russian withdrawal before negotiations can happen.

Ukrainian officials called Jenssen’s suggestion “ridiculous” and reaffirmed their position that peace can only happen if Russia is fully defeated, which seems unlikely amid the faltering Ukrainian counteroffensive. Western officials speaking to the media insisted NATO supports Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that the alliance is willing to support an open-ended conflict.

“We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as NATO leaders reaffirmed at the Vilnius Summit in July,” a NATO source speaking to the Ukrainian outlet European Pravda said. “We will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary, and we are committed to achieving a just and lasting peace.”

Russian officials responded to the suggestion by reiterating their position that one of their main demands for a settlement is Ukrainian neutrality, as a primary motive for the invasion was Ukraine’s alignment with NATO. On top of that demand, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said it’s also necessary to “recognize the new territorial realities, ensure Ukraine’s demilitarization and denazification, the rights of its Russian-speaking citizens and national minorities in line with international law.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.