Zelensky blasts Merkel and Sarkozy for denying Ukraine membership in NATO

BRUSSELS – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy berated former leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, in a video address released late Sunday, apparently blaming them for the deaths of Ukrainian civilians.

“I invite Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha to see what the 14-year policy of concessions towards Russia has led to,” said Zelenskyy, referring to the Kiev suburb, where pictures of lying corpses were published over the weekend appeared on the streets after Russian forces withdrew. “See with your own eyes the tortured and murdered Ukrainians.”

Mr. Zelensky was speaking, he said, on the 14th anniversary of the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, where after a major internal debate, NATO pledged membership of the alliance to Georgia and Ukraine, but did not specify the timing.

He accused NATO countries’ politicians of harboring an “absurd fear” of Russia, adding: “They thought that by rejecting Ukraine, they could placate Russia, to convince it to respect Ukraine and be normal.” to live next to us.”

He later insisted that he didn’t blame the West or anyone else except the Russian soldiers, whom he said had committed crimes against the Ukrainians, and those who gave them their orders. “But we have the right to talk about indecisiveness,” he said.

The Bucharest summit was marked by a debate on whether to give Ukraine and Georgia a formal “Membership Action Plan” to guide them towards qualifying for NATO membership. President George W. Bush endorsed this. Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy were not alone in arguing that neither country was ready and that extending accession plans to them would seriously damage relations with Russia and President Vladimir V Putin.

Mr. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, told him that the offer of NATO membership by Georgia and Ukraine was “really excessive” and, according to his memoirs, a case of “reckless disregard for what the Russians consider their own vital national interests.” looked at”.

Mr Putin made the same point in Bucharest, saying that Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO were red lines for him.

In a late-night compromise, all NATO member states agreed that the two countries should not be offered a membership action plan, but were instead promised membership at a later date.

Fiona Hill, a Russia scholar who was then a US government intelligence analyst, said the intelligence community tried to persuade Mr. Bush not to make that promise but failed. Four months later, Russia went to war in Georgia. As for Ukraine, Ms Hill said Mr Putin “has been trying to close that door ever since”.

Even after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and helped sponsor separatist rebels in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, NATO made no effort to align Ukraine for membership. NATO countries helped Ukraine train and equip its army and provided significant economic and political support, but without membership, the alliance’s commitment to collective defense left the country vulnerable — leaving it in a “grey area,” it said Zelenskyy on Sunday.

Ms Merkel responded on Monday through a spokeswoman who said she “stands by her decisions in relation to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest”.

But Ms. Merkel also supports efforts to “stand by Ukraine and put an end to Russia’s barbarism and war against Ukraine,” the spokeswoman added.

Mr Sarkozy had no immediate comment. But Germany and France – and NATO as a whole – have made it clear even during this war that they have no interest in fighting a nuclear-armed Russia on behalf of Ukraine. Both countries, along with other NATO allies, have given Ukraine the weapons and other support Mr Zelensky used to try to repel the Russian invasion.

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