Moscow sees Ukraine as a starting point for future moves in the region, the Ukrainian president says
Russia could use Ukraine as a starting point for attacks on other European states, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said. He asked the West for security guarantees that Ukraine could enjoy while not being a member of the US-led military bloc NATO.
"We need a system of security guarantees, which would be effective even while we are not part of the alliance," Zelensky said on Tuesday at a roundtable hosted by The Economist.
"Russia views the territory of our country as a foothold for capturing other European states. Which means, to ensure the security of Ukraine is to provide long-term security for the whole of Europe."
He argued that "gray zones" in European security have made it possible for Russia to send troops to Ukraine.
Zelensky mentioned the Budapest Memorandum, a 1994 deal under which Ukraine surrendered its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal in exchange for promises from the US, Britain and Russia that they would "provide assistance" to Ukraine in the case of aggression. The three states also vowed not to attack Ukraine themselves.
Zelensky said the guarantees provided under the Budapest Memorandum and similar "assurances" have now "been destroyed."
Russia has repeatedly said that NATO's expansion has been undermining European security. President Vladimir Putin cited the bloc's attempts to set up "a foothold" in Ukraine as one of the reasons for military action in the country.
Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev's failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev's main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and "create powerful armed forces."
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.