Ukraine conflict: Putin’s response from the West is not enough

As of: 01/28/2022 6:00 p.m

Russia is demanding security guarantees from the West – President Putin was now dissatisfied with the reactions in talks with French President Macron. NATO sees itself prepared for all scenarios in the Ukraine conflict.

In talks with his French colleague Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s demands for binding guarantees for security in Europe. The Kremlin announced this after a phone call between the two heads of state. Putin also said that Russia is now analyzing the written responses from the US and NATO to his proposals and then determining further steps.

According to the Kremlin, Putin also pointed out that Russia’s main concerns had not been taken into account in the answers. These include the demand for an end to NATO expansion, the renunciation of offensive weapons near the Russian borders and the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from all countries that were not part of the defense alliance until 1997.

“Basic Concerns of Russia”

“The US and NATO responses have failed to address Russia’s fundamental concerns, including preventing NATO expansion and deploying offensive weapon systems near Russia’s borders,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin statement.

The US and its allies have also ignored the key issue of the “indivisibility” of security. This is enshrined in the principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other documents, it said. What is meant is the principle that a country must not strengthen its own security at the expense of the interests of another state.

Russia sees NATO expansion as a threat

With this OSCE principle, Russia justifies its opposition to Ukraine’s admission to NATO, since the country considers the advance of the military bloc to be a threat. Russia sees itself connected to parts of Ukraine through a centuries-long history and criticizes the fact that the USA and NATO have declared the country their sphere of influence – without taking Russian interests into account.

According to the Kremlin’s statement, Putin has again insisted on fulfilling Kiev’s obligations in the Minsk peace agreement and pointed out the planned special status for the breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions in the Donbass.

In Paris, direct talks between Russia and Ukraine were held again for the first time under Franco-German mediation on the Minsk agreement, which has not yet been fulfilled. Above all, the commitment to the ceasefire in the conflict region was reaffirmed.

Macron: Respect the sovereignty of neighboring countries

After the phone call between Macron and Putin, a spokesman for the French President said he had told Putin that Russia must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors. The western allies are also trying to defuse the tensions.

The two leaders also agreed during the call that their countries would continue talks under the Normandy format as part of efforts to ease tensions. “President Putin said that he wanted to continue the dialogue and that it was important to work on the implementation of the Minsk agreements,” Macron’s spokesman said. Putin has also stressed that he does not want to escalate the situation.

In the run-up to the talks, Macron accused Russia of creating a regional imbalance. At the same time, he had also emphasized his willingness to engage in dialogue. “The ball is now in Putin’s hands,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL. The Russian President must decide “whether he wants confrontation or consultation.”

Stoltenberg: Russia is continuing to deploy troops

According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia is continuing to deploy troops despite all calls for de-escalation. “Russia is moving more troops, more heavy equipment, and now thousands of combat troops to Belarus,” Stoltenberg said at an online event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. “So the upgrade continues.”

However, there is no certainty that Putin is actually planning an invasion of Ukraine. “On the NATO side, we are ready to conduct a political dialogue, but we are also ready to react if Russia decides on an armed confrontation,” Stoltenberg said. “We are working hard for the best peaceful political solution, but we are also prepared for the worst.” Stoltenberg confirmed that NATO does not intend to send combat-ready soldiers to Ukraine.

An invasion of Ukraine would have “serious consequences” for Russia, according to Stoltenberg. The NATO allies are prepared to impose tough economic and political sanctions in the event of a military escalation.

However, NATO is preparing for various variants of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. A full-scale invasion could follow the concentration of troops in Russia near the Ukrainian border and in Belarus. A cyber attack, an attempted coup d’etat and sabotage are also possible. “We have to be prepared for a wide range of different forms of aggression,” said Stoltenberg.

EU and US see Russian disinformation campaign

According to estimates by the EU and the USA, the Russian troop deployment on the border with Ukraine is being accompanied by the targeted spread of disinformation. “What we are seeing at the moment is that the narratives and the entire disinformation ecosystem are much more aggressive,” said EU analysts in Brussels, as reported by the dpa news agency. A strategy of pro-Kremlin actors is therefore to spread uncertainty through many different perspectives.

This included narratives such as that Ukraine has no real right to exist, actually belongs to the Russian cultural sphere and is just an agent of the West. It was also observed that Ukraine was being accused of preparing chemical weapons attacks. The dissemination of these narratives is clearly coordinated, even if no increase in the amount of disinformation has been observed so far.

US request for troop stationing in Hungary

The developments in the USA are assessed in a similar way. The United States and its allies and partners are concerned about the increasingly harsh rhetoric and the spread of false narratives, said US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan. Ukraine is accused of wanting to provoke a conflict.

The United States, meanwhile, asked Hungary for the temporary stationing of troops, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry said. The Hungarian Defense Ministry is holding talks on this issue, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a press conference. The request will now be checked there, it said.

US requests UN Security Council meeting

For the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the UN Security Council is now to deal with the issue. In view of the “clear threat to international peace and security” from Russia, the USA called for a public meeting in the most important UN body, as the US diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced.

The Vice President of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley, spoke of an “acute danger of war”. In a discussion on Deutsche Welle, the SPD politician said that the federal government wanted to take a clear stance against Russia together with its EU and NATO partners on the one hand, and “negotiate at all levels” on the other.

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