Fiona Hill, a Russia scholar who was then a U.S. government intelligence analyst, said that the intelligence community tried to persuade Mr. Bush not to make that promise, but failed. Four months later, Russia went to war in Georgia. As for Ukraine, Ms. Hill said, Mr. Putin “has been trying to shut that door ever since.”
Even after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and helped sponsor separatist rebels in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, NATO made no effort to bring Ukraine into line for membership. NATO countries helped Ukraine train and equip its army, and provided significant economic and political support, but without membership, the country remained unprotected by the alliance’s commitment to collective defense — leaving it in a “gray zone,” Mr. Zelensky said on Sunday.
Ms. Merkel responded on Monday through a spokeswoman, who said that she stood “by her decisions in connection with the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest.”
But Ms. Merkel also supported the efforts “to stand by Ukraine and to put an end to the barbarism and the war by Russia against Ukraine,” the spokeswoman added.
Mr. Sarkozy had no immediate comment. But Germany and France — and NATO as a whole — have made it clear even during this war that they have no interest in fighting a nuclear-armed Russia on behalf of Ukraine. Both countries, along with other NATO allies, have given Ukraine the weapons and other support that Mr. Zelensky has used to try to beat back the Russian invasion.