10 July 2024

A Sobering Message on Ukraine From a NATO Head of State


Few if any world leaders understand the NATO alliance as deeply as Czech President Petr Pavel. A retired army general and veteran of military intelligence, he served as one of NATO’s top officials before winning his nation's highest office last year. His voice within the alliance has been among the boldest when it comes to helping Ukraine, defeating Russia, and building Europe’s military strength. So his message sounds particularly sobering ahead of this week’s NATO summit: Curb your expectations for the war in Ukraine.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is a full restoration of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea,” Pavel tells TIME in an exclusive interview before the gathering of NATO leaders, which U.S. President Joe Biden will host in Washington on July 9-11. “But we all understand that it's not an easy task. It will not happen in the foreseeable future.”

He used a historical analogy to explain where the front lines in Ukraine will likely remain in the years to come, comparing them to the disputed borders that divided Europe during the Cold War. For decades, the Soviet Union remained in control of lands it had occupied in World War II—including the Baltic States and East Germany. The West continued to denounce these occupations and pressured the Kremlin to end them. Still, the status quo persisted, and Moscow remained in control of these countries until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

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