NATO official apologizes for comments on Ukraine’s territorial claims

Jens Stoltenberg’s chief of staff has retracted his “land for peace” suggestion after Kiev backlash

Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday that his peace proposal for Ukraine was a “mistake,” after it drew condemnations from Kiev. 

“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,” Jenssen told the Norwegian outlet Verdens Gang (VG).

He also praised Ukraine’s “heroic effort” against Russia and said that while at the start of the conflict there had been concerns it “could collapse within weeks and days” the topic now is “how much territory Ukraine is able to take back.”

Ukrainians will decide if and when they are ready to negotiate with Moscow, he added.

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NATO official apologizes for comments on Ukraine’s territorial claims
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Speaking at a forum in Arendal, Norway on Tuesday, however, Jenssen told the panel that a solution to the conflict “could be for Ukraine to give up territory, and get NATO membership in return,” given that the bloc has been unwilling to admit Kiev while the hostilities with Russia are ongoing. 

When VG reported on Jenssen’s remarks, they drew a flurry of condemnations from Kiev. In a string of social media posts, Mikhail Podoliak, adviser to President Vladimir Zelensky, called the idea “ridiculous” and said that trading land for peace would amount to “deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations.”

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Mikhail Podoliak speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Kiev, Ukraine, September 28, 2022
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Aleksey Danilov, head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said that Kiev will never negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that “Russia must be destroyed like a modern-day Carthage.”

Ukrainian forces launched a major offensive against the Russian lines in early June, attempting to reach the Sea of Azov and cut off Crimea. All their efforts to break through have failed so far, however, at the cost of 43,000 men and nearly 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment, according to the latest figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. Those losses include dozens of tanks and combat vehicles supplied by Kiev’s Western backers, who continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, ammunition and equipment while insisting they are not actually a party to the conflict.

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