January 23, 2022 20:54 GMT – By RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service
Amid a Russian military buildup, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on the United States and Europe to treat Ukraine as part of the West that will never again be dominated by Moscow.
Russia’s buildup near Ukraine’s borders has spawned mounting concerns that an invasion may be imminent, prompting a flurry of diplomacy against the backdrop of the drumbeats of war in Europe.
If Russia were to attack Ukraine, the United States and its European allies have vowed crushing economic sanctions and other “severe consequences,” including bolstering NATO’s eastern flank.
Although Russia denies it is planning an attack, Moscow has spouted belligerent rhetoric alongside demands for a laundry list of security guarantees, including commitments that NATO never admit Ukraine and a significant retreat of the alliance from Eastern Europe.
Despite Russian threats and sharp rhetoric, Ukraine’s Western partners “continue to help us because they understand that the future of Euro-Atlantic security will be decided in Ukraine in these very months, this year,” Kuleba told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in an interview published on January 22.
Kyiv is not a NATO member and doesn’t benefit from the alliance’s mutual defense pact. But much to the ire of Moscow, it has received significant Western military support since Russia annexed Crimea and began backing separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
To help Ukraine fend off further Russian aggression, the United States, Britain, and NATO’s Baltic states have ramped up new military aid to Ukraine in recent days, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. Several other NATO members may follow suit.
Ukraine hopes to one day join NATO and the EU, a prospect that even the United States and European states recognize is far off due to the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, a democratic deficit, and entrenched corruption.
“The likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely, based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on January 19.
Although Ukraine’s prospects of integrating into key Western institutions are not on the horizon, the West says most Russian dictates on redrawing the security architecture in Europe are nonstarters.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on January 23 summed up the West’s position rejecting Moscow’s demands regarding the expansion of NATO.
“The accession of further countries from Eastern Europe to NATO is currently not on the agenda at all. What is the point of the Russian demand? There can be no such guarantee,” Scholz told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Scholz said Europe’s security and cooperation in Europe would only work without the idea of zones of influence in which countries would be unable to decide on their own positions.
Addressing ongoing tensions in eastern Ukraine and Russian aggression, Kuleba said the West must view “Ukraine as a self-standing important part of the West.”
“This conflict unleashed by Russia against Ukraine will only end once the West sends a very simple message to Russia: Ukraine is not just a country that we support; it is a part of our world, it is one of us, and it will never return to you,” he said.
The West has repeated it wants diplomacy, but with positions entrenched on both sides, successive talks between Western and Russian officials in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna this month failed to yield any breakthrough.