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Zelensky understands Ukraine’s NATO membership unrealistic, expert says

The words that Russia pushed Ukraine towards NATO sound like an excuse for the Ukrainian political course during the last seven years, Ruslan Bortnik notes

KIEV, December 16. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky understands now that Ukraine’s accession to NATO is unrealistic and seeks to justify this political course by shifting responsibility to Russia, says Ruslan Bortnik, director of the Ukrainian Institute of Politics, commenting to TASS on the outcome of the negotiations between Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"Zelensky understands already that there is no chance of joining NATO in the nearest future. Moreover, there may be no such chance at all. And these words that Russia pushed Ukraine towards NATO sound like an excuse for the Ukrainian political course during the last seven years, and simultaneously as an attempt to shift the responsibility for this course on Russia," he said.

Overall, Bortnik believes, Zelensky’s statements in the wake of his meeting with NATO Secretary General indicate that a reconsideration of Ukraine’s westward course has already begun, both in the president’s circles and by Zelensky himself.

"They start to realize that this course is unrealistic, but it will take a long time to explain to the public why they led the country on this course, despite the huge losses and damage to the state and the society, caused by such a lack of geopolitical flexibility," the researcher said.

The expert also noted Zelensky’s remark that, in the case of a full-on war, NATO does not owe Ukraine anything and will not protect it militarily.

"This is a signal to the Ukrainian society that we have been left alone with our problems and that we will probably have to make difficult political compromises, because NATO does not owe us anything and we will be left alone to protect ourselves," Bortnik explained.

Zelensky’s statement on the strengthening of cooperation with NATO in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as well as on joint military exercises, should be viewed as the Alliance’s compensation for the lack of any realistic chance of membership, the analyst says.

"What is available for Ukraine instead of integration are exercises, military-technical, financial and material support," Bortnik concluded.

Meanwhile, Zelensky tries to preserve hope inside the country that he won’t turn away from the NATO course, seeking to prevent the total disillusionment in the public, the expert opined, adding that this is indicated by his remarks about a new "window of opportunity" for Ukraine at the upcoming 2022 NATO summit in Madrid.