Ukraine Situation Report: NATO Official Suggests Surrendering Land To Russia For Membership

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s chief of staff on Tuesday created a bit of an international kerfuffle with his suggestion on how Ukraine might obtain its coveted NATO membership.

“I believe that a solution may be that Ukraine gives up territory and receives a NATO membership in return,” said Stian Jenssen in a panel debate in southern Norwegian coastal city of Arendal, according to the Norwegian VG news outlet

Discussion of Ukraine’s possible status after the war is already underway, Jenssen told the publication. He added that questions of surrendering territory to Russia have been raised by others, whom he did not name. 

Jenssen also pointed out that “it must be up to Ukraine to decide when and on what terms they want to negotiate.”

“I’m not saying it has to be this way,” said Jenssen. “But there may be a possible solution.”

Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhalio Podlyak took to Twitter to skewer the suggestion.

“Trading territory for a NATO umbrella? It is ridiculous,” he said. “That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations.” 

After Jenssen’s comments, a NATO official reassured Ukraine that there has been no change in policy.

“We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as NATO leaders reaffirmed at the Vilnius Summit in July,” the unnamed official told Ukrainian Pravda. “We will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary, and we are committed to achieving a just and lasting peace.”

Beyond being a non-starter in Kyiv, the question of a land-for-membership swap is highly unlikely. During its July summit in Vilnius, NATO basically pushed the concept of Ukrainian membership until after this war is over on Ukrainian terms.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy seen during a joint press conference with the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg on the second day of the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While the summit’s decision “contains relatively positive phrasing regarding Ukraine,” nothing is imminent, European Pravda reported Tuesday.

“In particular, the NATO Summit agreed to remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine’s path to the Alliance. At the same time, the allies indicated that they would invite Ukraine to join NATO ‘when conditions are met.‘”

Still, that a NATO official would suggest such a move is significant in itself.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage of the war here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, even as Ukraine appears to be making incremental advances in Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk Oblasts, it has transferred reserve troops to the Kupiansk area of Kharkiv Oblast to blunt an attempted Russian advance there, Kyiv says.

“Direct, clear orders were given to build an echelon defense,” Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on national TV Tuesday. “Our fire positions were strengthened, certain methodical recommendations were given, reserves were transferred. Therefore, this made it possible to make the enemy’s movement impossible.” 

The moves were in reaction to Russians “conducting a large-scale offensive in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction,” he said.

Ukraine has moved reserve forces to Kupiansk to blunt a Russian offensive there, a Ukrainian official said Tuesday. (Google Earth image)

Cherevatyi didn’t disclose how many troops were transferred, but Ukraine has shown steady concern about Kupiansk. As we wrote on Aug, 9, oblast officials began to plan a mandatory evacuation as Russian shelling of the city increased and its troops drew closer. 

It’s unclear how or if the troop transfer will affect the ongoing counteroffensive. But there are reports that Ukraine has advanced in Zaporizhzhia Oblast further toward the town of Robotyne and in Donetsk Oblast toward the town of Urozhaine.

A small group of Russian forces unsuccessfully tried to cross into northeastern Ukraine near Novhorod-Siverskyi in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine’s Joint Forces, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Naiev, said on his Telegram channel Tuesday.

“Two armed groups of militants were noticed by the sentry of the observation post,” Naiev wrote. “A shooting battle ensued.”

“According to preliminary data, sabotage and reconnaissance groups consisted of five and seven fighters, respectively. Having suffered losses in wounded and killed, the enemy retreated in the opposite direction,” he wrote.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday released new video of its troops boarding the Palau-flagged merchant ship Sukru Okan on Sunday

The video shows armed Russian troops boarding the vessel, entering the bridge, pointing their weapons at the crew and ordering them in broken English to “stop the ship.” They then ordered the crew to sit down and asked why they didn’t stop the ship despite Russian orders to do so.

The Russian Project 22160 patrol ship Vasily Bykov reportedly encountered the Sukru Okan north of Turkish waters, per the Russian Ministry of Defense. In a news release, Moscow claimed the Bykov hailed the 283-foot-long cargo ship, but the captain did not respond. You can read more about this incident in our original story here.

An image of a U.K.-donated Challenger 2 tank fitted with a cope cage emerged on social media Tuesday. There was no indication of where or when it was taken.

The Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel said the image – first posted by the Ukrainian Tysk Telegram channel – “was actually the first objective evidence of the appearance of vehicles of this type on the frontline.”

The U.K. has donated 14 Challengers to Ukraine. The tanks are believed to belong to the Ukrainian 82nd Airborne Brigade, which is also the unit of a Ukrainian Stryker armored vehicle hit by a Russian Lancet drone near Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia Oblast that we wrote about earlier today.

The Challenger image and Stryker video “indirectly confirms that the Ukrainian command is preparing to use earlier reserve formations for a strike in the Orekhovsky direction,” Rybar surmised.

Confronted by upwards of hundreds of thousands of Russian landmines that have slowed down its counteroffensive, Ukrainian troops have developed a new way of finding them.

Ukrainian frontline troops are using thermal cameras on commercially available drones at dusk, CNN reported

“The camera floats above Russian minefields and detects dozens of heat signatures. Some are craters, but many are landmines, barely hidden under the surface. The heat they gather from the glaring summer sun during the daytime is retained as the sun sets, causing them to show up more clearly on the thermal camera.”

While such drones are readily available and affordable, “the scale of the task is formidable, with often up to five landmines per square meter across more than 180,000 square kilometers of mine-affected land, according to official Ukrainian estimates,” CNN reported.

Sweden on Tuesday announced its 13th package of aid for Ukraine that includes ammunition and spare parts for the CV90 infantry fighting vehicles and Swedish variant Leopard 2 tanks it has already provided.

In addition, Sweden said it obtained authorization to sell the U.S. an undisclosed number of RB-90 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), which it will then donate to  Ukraine. The AIM-120 is used with the country’s NASAMS air defense systems.

The package is valued at SEK 3.4 billion ($313 million).

Air defense remains critical factor for both sides in this fight. Losing systems – especially one as rare as a Russian S-300V4 battery – stings.

This video below, posted by the Ukraine Weapons Tracker open source group, reportedly shows the battery – featuring the most updated version of the Russian S-300V series – being attacked by Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems GMLRS munitions. Ukraine Weapons Tracker said that a 9A83M2 transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) and a 9A84-2 transporter erector launcher (TEL) were destroyed and two radars damaged.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian special operations forces (SSO) posted a video it says showed the destruction of four pieces of Russian equipment somewhere on the southern front.

“During aerial reconnaissance, enemy equipment was discovered, including the Strela-10 air defense system, a tractor with a howitzer, and a KAMAZ truck,” the SSO said on its Telegram channel. “As a result of the precise work of the operators of the attack UAVs, all targets were destroyed.”

Russia displayed vehicles it says it captured in Ukraine during its ongoing International Military-Technical Forum Army. Some, like the Swedish-donated CV9040C infantry fighting vehicle and the French-donated AMX-10RC armored vehicle, have been put on display by Russia in the past.

And finally, a little more than two months after the Nova Khakovka dam was destroyed, what was once covered by the Dnipro River now looks like a meadow. A video posted to social media on Tuesday shows two men walking across the river bottom, filled with plants and littered with the occasional unexploded artillery shell.

That’s it for now. We will update this story when there is more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.