Status: December 17, 2021 11:50 p.m.
The Russian troop deployment on the border with Ukraine is causing tension with NATO. Russia wants to prevent an eastward expansion of the western military alliance. Concrete proposals for a settlement of the dispute are now coming from Moscow.
Russia has summarized its demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion in a draft security agreement with the USA and NATO. In it, Moscow demands that the Western military alliance not accept Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, withdraw weapons from the region and end maneuvers there. The US and its allies have already rejected these demands.
On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed receipt of the Russian documents. The alliance is basically open to a dialogue with Moscow. At the same time, however, NATO’s concerns about Russian behavior on the border with Ukraine should also be addressed.
Washington does not want outside interference
According to estimates by the US secret services, Moscow has gathered 70,000 soldiers there and could plan an invasion for the beginning of 2022. The 30 NATO countries are interested in reducing tensions and building mutual trust, said Stoltenberg.
The White House made a similar statement. The Russian proposals are being discussed with his allies. But all countries have the right to determine their future without outside interference, it said from Washington.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also stressed that it was up to the Alliance and the Kiev government to discuss NATO membership prospects. The same applies to Ukrainian military cooperation with other countries.
Moscow wants to negotiate in Geneva
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said his country is ready to begin negotiations on his proposals immediately and has suggested Geneva as the venue. Relations between Russia and NATO had reached a “dangerous point”.
Russia had already discussed the proposals in the past few days with representatives of Western countries, including the USA. Putin recently had a video switch with US President Joe Biden. The Kremlin chief also informed French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about Moscow’s demands for security guarantees.
Russia argues with its own security concerns
In its draft negotiation, Moscow also demands that NATO should withdraw its troops to the positions of 1997 – that is, before the start of eastward expansion. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became part of NATO in 1999, followed by Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Baltic States in 2004. After that, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia also became members.
In the Kremlin, there has long been a lack of understanding that the West, on the one hand, is criticizing the movements of Russian troops on their own territory. On the other hand, Russia’s security concerns over military maneuvers, weapon systems and soldiers from NATO countries in Eastern Europe are not taken into account. The Russian Defense Ministry had complained of a massive increase in maneuvers, a large number of western ships in the Black Sea and incidents in the airspace. The now proposed agreement is intended to ease tensions.
Both sides are apparently unwilling to compromise
It remains to be seen how specific NATO concessions could look like and whether they could ultimately gain the necessary approval from all 30 allied states. In any case, it is impossible for Russia to openly promise not to accept Ukraine. From Brussels diplomatic circles it was said that no real willingness to compromise was expected from Russia, just as there was no such thing on the part of NATO.
“Our country is ready to develop relations with NATO on the basis of equality with the aim of strengthening general security in the Euro-Atlantic region,” said Ryabkov. It is now up to NATO to respond to Russia’s security interests.