Loss of territories vs joining NATO: what scenarios for Ukraine are being discussed in the West and which option is supported by Ukrainians

The idea of "security in exchange for territories" is floating around in NATO.

On the sidelines of NATO, a scenario for Ukraine is allegedly being discussed informally under the tentative title of "membership in the Alliance in exchange for territories." Partly, this idea emerged as one of the possible solutions to end the war, and partly it was born as a response to the possible rise to power in the United States of Donald Trump and the consequences of his presidency.

More and more Western media outlets are publishing insights that Ukraine will not be invited to join the Alliance at the NATO summit this summer, while Ukrainians overwhelmingly believe in victory and are convinced that, following the war, our country will restore its territorial integrity within the borders established in 1991. What scenarios are currently being discussed in the West and what do the Ukrainian people want, OBOZ.UA writes.

Ukraine in NATO: is the entry "ticket" a part of the territories?

The idea of ending the war in Ukraine under the "territories in exchange for security" scheme is being floated on the sidelines of NATO, according to La Repubblica. The idea is that Kyiv should give up the territories occupied by Russia, and the controlled part of our country will be immediately accepted into the Alliance.

"This is not a hypothesis that was officially discussed during the last NATO summit in Brussels. But, of course, it is a possibility that cyclically returns in all informal conversations. Even in the last few days. And this is becoming an engine for accelerating assistance to Kyiv," the publication said.

In recent days, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Ukraine will sooner or later join the Alliance, followed by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who spoke about Ukraine's approximation to NATO standards.

La Repubblica notes that the idea of "exchanging" territories for joining the Alliance, which some experts consider one of the real ways to end the war, has not yet been assessed politically, but no one is rejecting it. Not least because of the US elections in the fall of 2024, when Joe Biden may be replaced in the White House by Donald Trump. The same man who has repeatedly boasted that he would "instantly" end the war between Russia and Ukraine upon his return to the presidency – and most likely not in the way it should have ended for reasons of justice and international law.

"In general, the plan would be to leave the occupied territories to the Kremlin. Crimea and the other four regions were conquered in the last two years. And then seal the borders. Allowing what is left of Ukraine to join NATO. A path that is very similar to what happened after World War II with West Germany. The German nation was divided in two, effectively handing over control of the eastern part of the USSR and at the same time incorporating the western part into the Atlantic Military Alliance in 1955," the newspaper writes.

At last year's NATO summit in Vilnius, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the allies to accept Ukraine into the bloc as a response to Russian aggression. At the time, he heard promises that this would certainly happen in the future, but almost all NATO countries were in no hurry to accept Ukraine, fearing to be directly involved in the war.

Now, the threat of Trump's return to the White House has changed the timetable. In particular, they are discussing the acceleration of assistance to Kyiv and the need to "cut off" this issue from political changes and uncertainty. Stoltenberg emphasized this, in particular.

"If this decision is indeed made, it is important that Ukraine retains as much territory as possible between now and the beginning of next year. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to provide Zelenskyy's army with weapons, ammunition, and possibly even people. The "Trump hypothesis" is causing some alarm in Europe, as it will still be a capitulation to Russian arrogance," the publication writes.

The journalists added that Russia is currently conducting offensive actions, and the Kremlin is intensifying its attacks on civilians and infrastructure in Ukraine under the pretext of a terrorist attack in the Moscow region. And there are fears in Europe that the occupation army will be able to break through the Ukrainian defense and seize new territories.

Meanwhile, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is not interested in negotiations with the current Biden administration: he is waiting for Trump to arrive, with whom he plans to reach an agreement. Until then, the aggressor state will try to seize even more Ukrainian territories at any cost. And the task of Ukraine and its Western partners is to prevent this from happening, the publication writes.

NATO summit in July: there will be no invitation

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Alliance is preparing to hold the 75th anniversary summit of NATO leaders in July in Washington, DC. And contrary to Kyiv's expectations, Ukraine will not receive the desired official invitation to join the Alliance. The New York Times reported this with reference to unnamed NATO officials.

The reason for this reluctance is the fear of NATO member states that by accepting Ukraine into the bloc, they will be forced to fulfill the collective security agreement. And this, they say, "will draw the Alliance into the largest land war in Europe since 1945."

However, the newspaper adds, member states want to demonstrate in another way that they support Ukraine "in the long term," so they are going to look for "some kind of middle ground, something closer to membership, but meaty enough to show that the Alliance supports Ukraine in the long term."

Western officials have not yet figured out what "meaty enough" can be offered by Western countries to Ukraine, which is being torn apart by Russia in a full-scale war.

Germany and the United States are among those who strongly oppose inviting Ukraine to negotiate NATO membership at the July summit. Berlin and Washington insist that this issue be "taken off the table" at the anniversary summit. However, both countries are in favor of giving Ukraine specific commitments that they can fulfill.

What Ukrainians want

After two years of full-scale war with Russia, the vast majority of Ukrainians still believe in winning the war against the Russian occupiers. This is evidenced by the results of a survey conducted by the Rating sociological group on February 17-21 this year.

At the same time, almost half of our fellow citizens strongly dislike the idea of Western officials exchanging territories for security: 45% of respondents believe that Ukraine will remain within the 1991 borders.

Another 16% are confident that Ukraine will return the territories it controlled before the full-scale invasion (before February 24, 2022), while the same number fear that Russia will manage to grab another piece of our country.

7% each believe that Ukraine will be able to return the occupied part of Donbas, but not Crimea, and vice versa – will de-occupy Crimea, losing part of Donbas.

As a reminder, on April 4, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the goal of the Alliance members at the next summit. He assured that he had stated that Ukraine would eventually join NATO, as its support remained "firm" among member states. Therefore, the Alliance's goal at the upcoming summit is to "help build a bridge to that membership."

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