Zelensky has misgivings about NATO effectiveness in E. Ukraine crisis

Zelensky (left) pictured with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. Ukraine’s leaders and Azerbaijan’s citizens have voiced doubts of effecitveness of NATO and its OSCE partner in recent geopolitical issues with Russian intervention. 

NATO wary of Russia’s Ukraine aggression, calls for a peaceful solution 

America warns of the geopolitical impact on Ukraine from Nordstream 2 

On Friday, the Turkish media outlet Anadolu Agency posted about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s concerns over recent Russian aggression in Ukraine. NATO “remains vigilant” against Russia’s “aggressive actions,” the news agency wrote. 

Statements made by the head of the intergovernmental military alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted NATO’s increasing concerns. Stoltenberg told a press conference at Elysee Place that NATO is monitoring the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. Stoltenberg also stated that NATO is committed to a “dual-track approach of defense and dialogue” with Russia. 

Stoltenberg commended France for having an active role in the Normandy format initiative for de-escalation, with talks that involved Germany and Ukraine, as NATO sought mediation. Stoltenberg stressed the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. There has been a recent uptick in violence in the Donbas area, which is located in southeastern Ukraine. Kyiv has battled against Kremlin-controlled separatists in this region since 2014. 

The Biden administration likewise addressed NATO’s recent commitments at a press conference on Thursday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki delivered a press conference from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Psaki was approached by a reporter regarding Biden’s climate policy and Biden’s extension of U.S. consent for the building of the Nordstream 2 pipeline, which is a pipeline that will connect Russia to Germany for the transport of oil and is a major energy agenda for Russia. The reporter questioned why Biden would allow the building of Nordstream 2, which Ukraine has advised would be “a major geopolitical mistake.” 

Psaki noted that Nordstream 2 progress was well underway before the Biden administration took office in January. 

“First, we’re hardly letting any country or other countries build Nord Stream 2. When the President took office, 95 percent of this pipeline was built,” said Psaki. 

Psaki stated, however, that the Biden administration has continued to convey U.S. concerns over the Nordstream 2 project and its potential reflection on the Ukraine security issue. 

“We’ve continued to convey that we believe it’s a bad — a bad idea, a bad plan — and we have also put in place and taken actions over the last several days to make that clear — in large part because our view is that it’s a Russian geopolitical project that threatens European energy security and that of Ukraine and in the East — and Eastern Flank NATO Allies and partners. Hence, there’s a geopolitical concern about this pipeline, and we’ve taken steps over the last several days to make that clear,” said Psaki. 

The reporter pressed Psaki to explain why the Biden administration had not halted Nordstream 2. Psaki expressed confusion, asking the reporter how the U.S. was meant to have halted the project in “another country that was already 95 percent built.” The reporter asked, then, how the Biden administration could have made the production of the pipeline more difficult. Psaki then explained that the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on four Russian entities. 

“Well, we have imposed sanctions on four Russian entities, four Russian vessels that engaged in sanctionable activities. We’ve also imposed sanctions on nine vessels belonging to the Russian government. This is the largest number of entities listed under this act to date. 

So we have certainly taken significant steps, and we’ve also made clear — in public and private channels — our opposition to this plan,” said Psaki. 

As Psaki highlighted the U.S. position toward Nordstream 2, and as NATO stated its position on the Ukraine conflict de-escalation, Ukraine expressed fear that the U.S. would “strike a deal” toward cooperation with Russia. The Associated Press quoted the statements of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday regarding the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Ukraine is concerned that the pipeline, which bypasses its territory, will bypass transit fees, and will weaken Ukraine’s regional and geopolitical position. 

Zelensky voiced fear over the U.S.’s consent for the pipeline stating that he believed the United States would “make a deal” with Russia “behind his back.” The AP states that, while the Biden administration has opposed the pipeline’s construction, it has elected not to punish the German company overseeing the pipeline’s construction. 

He also “rebuked” France and Germany for their “perceived softening of stance” in recent talks with Moscow. Newsweek reported on Thursday that the Ukrainian president has pressed France and Germany for “greater support”againt Russia. 

While the NATO leader praised France and Germany’s mediation, and the incumbent U.S. executive administration detailed its policy, the Ukrainian leader’s statements highlight a lack of confidence in NATO mediation. 

Reuters reported on Thursday that Zelensky expressed fears over Russian passports in the Donbas region, which he said were “a step toward annexation.” Zelensky drew an equivalency between the Russian passports for Donbas and the Russian policy toward Crimea before the 2014 Russian takeover. 

“This [passport distribution]is definitely the first step, because the same thing happened earlier in Crimea. Crimean residents were given Russian passports [prior to annexation]. This is a big problem,” said Zelensky, as he was quoted by The Atlantic Council. 

Reuters likewise reported on Friday that Ukraine extends sanctions against the companies and politicians that Kyiv holds accountable for Russian aggression in Ukraine.