Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US ‘confident’ in Nordic NATO bids, Ukraine holds first war crimes trial

US ‘confident’ in Nordic NATO bids, Ukraine holds first war crimes trial

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
(From left to right) Finland’s ambassador to NATO Klaus Korhonen, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden’s ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff pose during a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels, on May 18. POOL/AFP

US ‘confident’ in Nordic NATO bids, Ukraine holds first war crimes trial

The US said on May 18 it is confident Finland and Sweden will become part of NATO, despite vocal Turkish protests – an expansion that would dramatically realign European security in the wake of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Reflecting the brutality of the conflict which has reinvigorated the transatlantic alliance, Ukraine held its first war crimes trial since Moscow poured troops across the border beginning February 24, with a 21-year-old Russian soldier pleading guilty to the cold-blooded murder of a Ukrainian civilian.

The launch of Kyiv’s judicial reckoning over alleged atrocities committed on its soil after 12 weeks of war and thousands of deaths came as President Vladimir Putin was forced to confront the vexing prospect of NATO sharply expanding its reach on his borders.

Abandoning decades of non-alignment, Finland and Sweden formally submitted a joint application to join the military alliance at its headquarters in Brussels.

Throwing America’s full weight behind the Nordic nations, President Joe Biden said he “strongly” backs their NATO bid and offered US support in the event of “aggression” during the application process.

In a sign of Washington’s resolve to stand firm with Ukraine, the US reopened its embassy in Kyiv after a three-month closure, with employees raising the Stars and Stripes in a modest ceremony.

Biden’s comments came one day before he was to welcome Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House for meetings set to underscore the strategic reach of their decision.

Reacting to the NATO applications, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they would not have been expected a short time ago, “but Putin’s appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent”.

The accession bid faces stiff resistance from NATO member Turkey, which accuses the Nordic neighbours of harbouring anti-Turkish extremists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded “respect” from NATO over his government’s concerns.

But Western allies remain optimistic they can overcome Turkey’s objections. For now, several including Britain have offered security guarantees to the Nordic nations to guard against any Russian aggression.

“We’re confident that at the end of the day Finland and Sweden” will enter NATO and “that Turkey’s concerns can be addressed,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

In an effort to lower the diplomatic heat, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met at the United Nations Wednesday with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who called the face-to-face discussion “extremely positive.”

On the ground, in Ukraine’s ruined port city of Mariupol more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers including senior commanders remained inside the besieged Azovstal steel plant, a pro-Russian separatist leader said.

Moscow said 959 of the troops had surrendered this week.

Kyiv’s defence ministry pledged to do “everything necessary” to rescue the personnel still in the sprawling plant’s tunnels but admitted there was no military option available.

Those who have left the heavily shelled Azovstal plant were taken into Russian captivity, including 80 who were seriously wounded, Russia’s defence ministry said.

The ministry, which published images showing soldiers on stretchers, said the injured were transported to a hospital in the eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.

The defence ministry in Kyiv said it was hoping for an “exchange procedure... to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as quickly as possible”.

But their fate was unclear, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refusing to say whether they would be treated as criminals or prisoners of war.

Putin had “guaranteed that they would be treated according to the relevant international laws”, Peskov said.

Russia’s alleged disregard for international law has played out in Ukraine with accusations – including mass rape and massacres – that are under investigation by international bodies.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky hit out at Moscow in his nightly address to the nation, calling Russia’s offensive an “absolute failure” and saying the once-mighty military has nearly exhausted its missile stockpile.

“They are afraid to acknowledge that catastrophic mistakes were made at the highest military and state level,” Zelensky said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of