NATO Official retracts controversial suggestion about Ukraine exchanging territory for NATO membership

Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to the NATO secretary-general, walked back his previous comments about Ukraine potentially giving up territory to Russia in return for NATO membership, the Norwegian newspaper VG reported on Aug. 16.

“It was a mistake,” Jenssen told VG, the same paper that reported on his comments the day before. “It was part of a larger discussion about possible future scenarios in Ukraine,” he clarified, “and I shouldn’t have said it that way.”

The original suggestion, which was characterized on Twitter by Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukraine's Presidential Office, as “ridiculous,” also prompted further clarifications from NATO.

An unnamed NATO official spoke with Ukrainska Pravda later on Aug. 15, and stated that there had been no change in NATO’s position on Ukraine, which was “clear and unwavering,” and that it is up to Ukraine itself to decide how and if it wants to negotiate for peace.

Jenssen reaffirmed that stance in his comments to VG on Aug. 16, arguing that it was an “if” the military situation on the ground got to the point when there could be negotiations, but stressed that “we are not there now.”

Although he would not specify what shape any future security guarantees for Ukraine might take, Jenssen did state that there “must be a framework that ensures this does not happen again.”

He also argued that the primary focus should be on supporting Ukraine’s fight on the battlefield and that “weapons are the way to peace.”

American conservative group, Republicans for Ukraine, launches ad campaign to increase Republican support for Ukraine

A U.S. Republican Party-affiliated group, Republicans for Ukraine, announced the launch of a $2 million ad campaign to gain more support for Ukraine among Republican voters, the Hill reported on Aug. 15.

The campaign, which will begin airing before the first Republican primary debate on Aug. 23, features appeals from Republican voters for their party to continue supporting Ukraine.

One testimonial features a lifelong Republican voter who states, “I don’t understand some Republican politicians’ reluctance to support a fledgling democracy battling an aggressor.”

According to their national spokesman Gunner Ramer, the campaign is aimed at showing party leadership that “there are a lot of Republicans across the country who stand with Ukraine.”

There is a considerable gap between the levels of support for continued U.S. aid to Ukraine, with 71% of Republicans stating in a CNN survey on Aug 4. that the U.S. Congress “should not authorize new funding," while 61% of Democrats say that the U.S. “should do more."

Republican political strategist Sarah Longwell was alarmed by the survey results, inspiring her and co-founder Bill Kristol to launch the campaign, she stated in comments to the Washington Post.

Traditionally, the Republican party has been more focused on defense spending. Kristol, who served in the George H.W. Bush administration, supported the war in Iraq and argued for military interventions in Iran.

Former President Donald Trump’s influence on Republican politics has dramatically changed the party, Ramer told CNN, making it “more protectionist” and less interested in defending U.S. allies abroad or promoting democracy.

Trump, who is the leading Republican candidate for the upcoming U.S. presidential election in 2024, said in July that there should be a pause on any future aid to Ukraine until there is a full investigation by the U.S. Congress into the business dealings of President Biden and his family, Washington Post reported.

Russian strikes against Kherson Oblast injure 5

Russian strikes against Kherson and two other settlements in Kherson Oblast on Aug. 16 injured five residents, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported.

The attacks targeted a school and a hospital in the city center. The governor added that the victims include a 55-year-old patient who was recovering from a stroke.

Russian forces further targeted the village of Zelenivka, injuring a 45-year-old man, and Khreshchenivka, wounding a 60-year-old man, Prokudin said.

During the past day and overnight, Russian attacks against Kherson Oblast left six civilians injured, according to the governor.