Special Daily Brief on Ukraine Crisis: Is Ukraine giving up on joining NATO?
As tensions on the Ukrainian-Russian border remain high, we are looking into several developments in the last 24 hours.
Is Ukraine giving up on joining NATO?
The last 24 hours were marked by some easing of tensions in Ukrainian-Russian relations, which was precipitated by the remarks of Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Vadym Prystaiko, who hinted that Kiev may give up on its goal to join NATO in order to preserve peace.
More concretely when asked by the BBC if Ukraine will contemplate not joining NATO, Prystaiko said: “We might, especially being threatened like that, blackmailed by that, and pushed to it.” He mentioned, however, that Ukraine’s commitment to join NATO is stipulated by its Constitution. Further on the Ambassador continued: “What I’m saying here is that we are flexible and trying to find the best way out. If we have to go through some serious concessions, that’s something we might do, that’s for sure. I don’t believe we will do this, you were asking whether we contemplate the possibility.”
Moscow immediately welcomed these signs as a concession on behalf of Kiev. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that if Ukraine refused "the idea of joining NATO" it "would significantly contribute to the formulation of a more meaningful
response to Russian concerns". In another sign of relaxation, the Ukrainian and Belarusian defence ministers held a "positive" phone call aimed at relieving tensions. Russia has sent 30,000 troops into Belarus near the Ukrainian border.
Whilst Prystaiko’s words cannot be taken as an official change of Kiev’s position, it is highly unlikely that they were accidental.
Is Lavrov seeing a chance for peace?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Vladimir Putin that he saw a "chance" for diplomatic dialogue with the West over Russia's security concerns, expressing that he recommends such efforts continue.
In remarks aired on Russian state television, Putin said, "In your opinion, Sergey Victorovich, is there a chance to reach an agreement with our partners on key issues that are of concern to us, or is it just an attempt to drag us into an endless negotiation process that has no logical resolution?"
In his reply, Lavrov noted that Russian officials have warned "against the inadmissibility of endless discussions on issues that need to be resolved today," but added that "there is always a chance" that diplomacy could work.
No air-travel to and from Ukraine
Aircraft travel through Ukrainian airspace will no longer be insured by international insurance companies, forcing flights to be grounded or cancelled. British reinsurance giant Lloyds announced it would temporarily cease all conflict risk insurance over Ukrainian airspace from Feb. 14.
In response, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry announced that it would provide “additional financial guarantees” to carriers to ensure the continuation of international routes. Subsequently, the ministry announced a $590 million fund to insure aircrafts flying through the country’s airspace. The money will be taken from the state budget, placed on an escrow account and will be used for “guaranteeing the safety of flights through Ukraine for insurance companies, reinsurers, leasing companies and airlines.” However, it is not certain whether insurers and lessors will accept the Ukrainian government’s financial assurances.
German Chancellor in Kiev
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz paid a visit to Kyiv. While speaking at a news conference in Kyiv on Monday, Scholz told President Zelensky that Germany stood “very closely” on the side of Ukraine and announced a new credit of 150 million euro to Ukraine. President Zelensky thanked Germany for its partnership and support.
“Germany is one of our key partners in Europe,” stated the Ukrainian President. Despite Berlin’s unwillingness to ship lethal aid to Ukraine and acknowledging some “differences,” when it came to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Zelensky highlighted how “German investments will be the key guarantors of our stable relations and stable growth.”