Updated Mar 20, 2022 - World

Zelensky: "If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn't have started"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that had Ukraine been admitted into NATO earlier, Russia would not have invaded.

Driving the news: Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has stretched on for more than three weeks, with experts now saying the war has reached a stalemate that could prove even more devastating.

What they're saying: “If we were a NATO member, a war wouldn't have started. I'd like to receive security guarantees for my country, for my people,” Zelensky told CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

  • “If NATO members are ready to see us in the alliance, then do it immediately, because people are dying on a daily basis," he added.
  • Zelensky said he had previously appealed to NATO to be told clearly whether Ukraine could join the alliance. "The response was very clear, you're not going to be a NATO member, but publicly, the doors will remain open," he said.
  • Zelensky thanked the NATO countries who are supporting Ukraine, however, he made a point to note that not all member states support Ukraine's admittance into the alliance, though he declined to name specific countries.
  • “But if you are not ready to preserve the lives of our people, if you just want to see us straddle two worlds, if you want to see us in this dubious position where we don't understand whether you can accept us or not — you cannot place us in this situation, you cannot force us to be in this limbo.”

Zelensky also addressed the prospect of negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that he is "ready for negotiations with him. I was ready over the last two years and I think that ... without negotiations we cannot end this war."

  • "If there is just 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance," he added.
  • "There are compromises for which we cannot be ready as an independent state," Zelensky said, adding that these include "any compromises related to our territorial integrity and our sovereignty."

The bottom line: "We have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third World War.”

  • This is not the first time the Ukrainian president has mentioned the Russian invasion's global implications. World War III "may have already started" is what Zelensky said last week in an interview with NBC News.
  • "Nobody knows whether it may have already started. And what is the possibility of this war if Ukraine will fall, in case Ukraine will? It's very hard to say," Zelensky said at the time.

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