Some experts say that Ukraine remaining neutral and out of NATO could be beneficial to regional security. For years, Ukraine has aspired to join NATO, a move that would significantly boost its military in the face of Russian aggression, but the chances of membership remain slim even as the war devastates the former Soviet country. Russia refuses Western allegations that it wants to influence Ukraine, and claims its main desire is for Ukraine to be neutral, a buffer state, and out of NATO. But on February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine after months of tensions – and the bloody conflict has now made the scenario of a neutral Ukraine more conceivable. Since 2019, joining NATO has been enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution. Russia has demanded that Ukraine renounce this and declare itself neutral. After two weeks of the war, it appears Ukraine is no longer insisting on NATO membership and it has not ruled out talks about the country’s possible neutrality in negotiations with Russia. In international law, neutrality means the obligation of a state, brought about by unilateral declaration or coercion, not to interfere in military conflicts of third states. Examples of neutrality exist, such as Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria, with the four latter being post-neutral states since they are part of the European Union. However, while the EU has a common foreign, security and defence policy, opt-out clauses are available to avoid an overall deadlock. According to Fotios Moustakis, associate professor in strategic studies at the University of Plymouth, Russia’s insistence that it does not want to influence Ukraine is hardly believable. “The truth of the matter is that since 2008 and following the Bucharest NATO Summit Declaration, Russia has made it clear to the West that Ukraine will not be allowed to escape Russian orbit and influence,” he told Al Jazeera. “Russia openly and consistently declared that the Bucharest NATO Summit Declaration in April 2008, which confirmed that Georgia and Ukraine will become NATO members, was a colossal strategic mistake and posed a direct threat to the core strategic interests of Russia.” But the invasion of Ukraine is “not about re-establishing a Soviet Empire 2.0”, he added. “It is about securing what is considered vital to Russian strategic interests. If Russian interests are not taken into consideration by the West, Putin will wreck Ukraine, which he is currently in the process of doing. “Russia does not have the desire or capacity to fully occupy the country. Neutrality is a panacea to solving the current crisis, and Finland is the model that provides a reasonable path ahead,” Moustakis said. However, questions remain about what neutrality would mean to Ukraine, Katharine AM Wright, senior lecturer in international politics at Newcastle University, told Al Jazeera. “For any conditions made by [Ukraine President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy to be realistic, they will need to have the buy-in of Ukrainians who have lived in the shadow of an increasing . . . read the full article here.