View from UAE: NATO membership and Zelensky’s legitimacy crisis

9:44 04.07.2024 •

The Ukraine crisis continues to escalate in complexity, both militarily and politically. On the political front, NATO is maintaining a calculated stance regarding Ukraine’s potential membership. NATO officials have confirmed that no invitation to join the alliance will be extended to Ukraine at the upcoming Washington summit, echoing statements made by US officials, writes Dr. Salem Alketbi, an Emirati political scientist and former candidate for the Federal National Council.

NATO’s position on Ukraine’s membership remains unchanged, linking it to the end of the current conflict with Russia. What is new, however, is a hardening within the alliance regarding the very fact of discussing the question of membership.

Complicating matters further is the question of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s legitimacy. His presidential term ended on May 20, but Zelensky’s invocation of martial law means he can justify continuing in office until new elections can be held. The 2024 Ukrainian presidential election was canceled due to the state of martial law and general mobilization. At the time, Zelensky declared that it was “not the right time” for elections.

Western support for Zelensky’s mandate continues due to the lack of a realistic alternative, despite his declining popularity. The EU and UN have affirmed his legitimacy, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argues that Zelensky’s legitimacy expired on May 21.

The debate over Zelensky’s legitimacy weakens his position, particularly in terms of national opposition. This is compounded by reports of his declining popularity, Western discontent with the appointment of Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskiy as the new army commander-in-chief and deteriorating conditions on the ground.

In mid-May, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the capture of 12 towns, mainly in Kharkiv, within a week. It reported Russian losses of more than 1,000 soldiers on the Kharkiv axis, while Ukraine lost approximately 9,565 soldiers across all fronts.

Earlier, Zelensky had described his forces’ situation in Kharkiv as very difficult.

The deteriorating situation of Ukrainian forces on the ground after two years of fighting, and after significant military and financial support from the West, is putting increasing pressure on the Ukrainian president to reach a ceasefire agreement with Russia.

Both on the ground and politically, Ukraine’s situation is becoming more tense despite Putin’s recent expression of a willingness to negotiate, which is based on the reality favoring Russia — something the West rejects.

There are no signs of a breakthrough in the crisis on the horizon…


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