Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky made his first visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday to attend meetings with the bloc’s defense ministers. The meetings were held to discuss further Western support for Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia. Zelensky’s visit comes after he has addressed NATO officials only through video conferences since the start of the conflict in February 2022.
Zelensky’s surprise visit to Brussels comes amidst a major escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken the forefront of international attention, replacing Ukraine as the main topic in headlines. Concerned about the shifting international attention, Zelensky expressed his worries in an interview with France 2 on Tuesday, stating that it could have consequences for Ukraine.
A video posted on social media by Zelensky showed his arrival at the NATO headquarters, where he was greeted by dozens of people apparently employed at the headquarters. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accompanied him during his entrance to the building.
During his visit, Zelensky urged Western leaders to support the Israeli people and emphasized the importance of showing them that they are not alone, just as they did for Ukraine. Regarding the conflict with Russia, he stressed the need to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense as winter approaches to protect the military, people, and economy.
Zelensky also expressed hope that positive decisions regarding the supply of weapons, military equipment, and necessary assistance to Ukraine would be made during the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting and the summit of the bloc’s defense ministers in Brussels.
Apart from attending the meetings, Zelensky also had talks scheduled with Stoltenberg, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during his visit to Brussels.
However, Moscow has repeatedly warned that the provision of weapons to Ukraine by the US and its allies only prolongs the fighting and increases the risk of direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO. Russian officials argue that the provision of arms, intelligence-sharing, and the training of Ukrainian troops has already made Western nations de facto parties to the conflict.
As Kiev prepares to resist Moscow during the cold months, Zelensky emphasized the need for support from NATO leaders. He stated that he was present at the NATO headquarters to seek support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
Zelensky’s visit to Brussels and his meetings with NATO officials come at a crucial juncture in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The outcome of these discussions and the decisions made by NATO member countries regarding further support to Ukraine will have significant implications for the future of the conflict and the stability of the region.