Zelensky makes unannounced visit to NATO HQ
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky arrived at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday to take part in meetings of the bloc’s defense ministers aimed at discussing further Western support for Kiev in its fight against Moscow.
Zelensky has not been to the headquarters in the Belgian capital in person since the start of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in February 2022, only addressing gatherings of top officials from the US-led military alliance via video link.
His surprise visit to Brussels comes amid a major flareup between Israel and Palestinian armed group Hamas, which has replaced Ukraine as the main topic of international headlines since the violence escalated on Saturday. Zelensky complained in an interview with France 2 on Tuesday that “if international attention shifts away from Ukraine, one way or another, it will have consequences” for Kiev.
A video posted by Zelensky on social media shows him entering the building alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, as he is greeted by dozens of people who are apparently employed at the headquarters.
I met with @SecDef and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown.I thanked the US for its unwavering support and the latest military aid package.As winter approaches, it’s critical to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense to protect our military, people, and economy. pic.twitter.com/ROUyzXNPUi— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) October 11, 2023
Zelensky urged Western leaders to support the Israeli people, “to go to Israel” and show them that they are “not alone,” as they did for the Ukrainians.
As for the conflict with Russia, he said: “As winter approaches, it’s critical to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense to protect our military, people, and economy.”
Kiev is preparing to resist Moscow during the cold months, but “now we need some support from the [NATO] leaders. That’s why I’m here today,” the Ukrainian president explained.
In a later post on Telegram, Zelensky expressed hope that during the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting later on in the day, and the summit of the bloc’s defense ministers on Thursday, “NATO member countries will make positive decisions regarding the supply of weapons, military equipment and necessary assistance to Ukraine.”
Talks with Stoltenberg, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo are also on the Ukrainian leader’s agenda in Brussels.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that deliveries of weapons to Ukraine by the US and its allies only prolong the fighting and increase the risk of a direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO. Russian officials have also argued that the provision of arms, intelligence-sharing, and the training of Ukrainian troops means that Western nations have already become de facto parties to the conflict.