Addressing an audience at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week, Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine’s joining NATO could be an “appropriate outcome” of the Russian invasion.
Appearing on a panel virtually, Kissinger, who is 99 years old, explained that Russia must be allowed back into the international community after the conflict to avert a crisis that could result from its internal collapse. “The destruction of Russia as a state that can pursue its own policies will open up the vast area of its eleven time zones to internal conflict and to outside intervention at the time when there are 15,000 and more nuclear weapons on its territory,” he said, according to CNBC.
Kissinger has previously called for a negotiated settlement to the war which would include Ukraine’s cession of territories attacked and occupied by Russian forces — a stance criticized by Kyiv and its supporters. While there’s no indication that Kissinger has reversed that stance, his comments on Ukraine’s ongoing NATO bid represent a significant reversal.
“Before the war, I was opposed to membership of Ukraine in NATO, because I feared that it would start exactly the process that we are seeing now,” Kissinger said yesterday during the panel, per the Wall Street Journal. “The idea of a neutral Ukraine under these conditions is no longer meaningful. I believe Ukrainian membership in NATO would be an appropriate outcome.”
For over a decade, NATO has said that Ukraine could eventually join the collective-security alliance, while declining to take specific steps to expedite its accession.
Three months before Russia launched its invasion, a senior Ukrainian official, Roman Mashovets, reiterated Kyiv’s long-standing request that it be allowed to join. “Putin would be shocked” by Ukraine’s accession, Mashovets told National Review in November 2021, “and he wouldn’t be able to do something against Ukraine, hybrid warfare, unconventional, conventional, asymmetrical, and other.”
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin made similar comments at the Davos gathering, telling an audience that, had Ukraine been part of NATO, Russia would not have attacked. She also said that Finland and Sweden are “fully prepared” to join the alliance, as they continue to seek NATO members’ approval of their membership bids.