Not Until 'Hell Freezes Over': Ex-NATO Chief Explains When Ukraine Will Be Admitted Into Bloc
19:17 GMT 23.01.2022 (Updated: 19:24 GMT 23.01.2022)
© AP Photo / Pavlo PalamarchukSoldiers take part in an exercise at the Yavoriv military training ground, close to Lvov, Western Ukraine, Friday, Sept 24, 2021. Ukraine, the US, and other NATO countries continue joint military drills in Western Ukraine presenting offensive exercises in town-like surroundings with tanks and other military vehicles involved.
© AP Photo / Pavlo Palamarchuk
While the previous NATO head, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was more cautious in assessing the timeline for Ukraine's accession into the alliance, his predecessor was more outspoken about the country's chances of being accepted.
Former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has questioned Ukraine's chances of being accepted into the ranks of the alliance, noting in an interview with FT that it was obvious to him in 2008, when the invitation was first extended to Kiev during Scheffer's tenure as the military bloc's chief.
"For the foreseeable and the unforeseeable future they’ll not become a NATO member. And I think the whole group around that table in Bucharest knew this. It was already clear then that in the eyes of the opponents [of Ukraine’s membership] it was until hell freezes over. There was no time limit whatsoever".
De Hoop Scheffer explained that an invitation to Ukraine in the absence of real opportunity was an "ugly compromise" to the debate between proponents of Kyiv’s membership, such as then-US President George W. Bush, and its many opponents at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest.
"NATO’s in a bind because we’ve told Ukraine you can enter the house but you’re not allowed on the porch. Compromises are ugly [...] and NATO is living with that compromise ever since".
At the same time, the former NATO secretary general supports the alliance's current position on turning down Russia's demand to prevent Ukraine's admission into the alliance, insisting that "giving in on Ukraine now is the wrong way to go," and that NATO should not appease Putin’s "appetite". De Hoop Scheffer believes that the 2008 NATO invitation to Ukraine is not to blame for what is currently being described by the West as the threat of a conflict with Russia.
Western nations have been consistently floating fears that Russia might be planning an invasion in Ukraine, despite the Kremlin consistently rejecting the allegations.
Moscow has proposed security consultations with the US and NATO in the light of tensions around Ukraine. The Kremlin has forwarded proposals on security and strategic stability, including the prevention of further NATO eastward expansion, which Russia considers a security threat. Following meetings between 10 and 12 January, however, NATO countries rejected the request.