MISTAKE? NATO official rows back from controversial Ukraine comments

Stian Jenssen (left) is one of the most senior officials under NATO’s secretary-general, Jens StoltenbergAP

Yesterday’s biggest story was a sudden diplomatic row between Kyiv and NATO over the suggestion by Stian Jenssen, Jens Stoltenberg’s chief of staff, that Ukraine could give up some of its land in exchange for NATO territory.

Kyiv fired back, calling the idea “ridiculous” and “absolutely unacceptable”. It prompted a panicked statement from NATO to Ukrainian media, saying it has not changed its position backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

And this afternoon, Mr Jenssen himself has apologised for the row in an interview with Norwegian newspaper VG, which published his original comment.

Mr Jenssen said his comment “was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine, and I shouldn’t have said it in that way. 

“It was a mistake.”

He added: “If, and I emphasised if, you get to the point where you can negotiate, the military situation on the ground will be absolutely central, and will have a decisive influence on how a possible outcome of this war will look.”

The NATO official said the priority remains supporting Ukraine.

“At the outbreak of war there was a concern that Ukraine could collapse within weeks and days,” he said. 

“It has not happened at all. They have shown a heroic effort against the superior power. 

“The question now is how much territory Ukraine is able to take back.”

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