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“Ending Russia’s international conflict best guarantee of security” – Ukraine responds to Russia’s demands of NATO non-expansion delivered to USA

The building of the MFA of Ukraine, adorned with Ukrainian and EU flags
“Ending Russia’s international conflict best guarantee of security” – Ukraine responds to Russia’s demands of NATO non-expansion delivered to USA

Russia has published a wish list of so-called “security guarantees” to the US which Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Riabkov says is “not an ultimatum” but includes unenforceable demands in effect returning NATO forces to their position in 1997. In particular, Russia demands the US and other NATO members prior to 1997 should not deploy their troops in the Baltics, Poland, and other states which entered NATO after that date.

The Kremlin also demands NATO “refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other States” and from conducting “any military activity on the territory of Ukraine as well as other States in the Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.”

NATO, the US, and Ukraine responded with a rebuke.

“It is the reversal of the escalation and the ending of Russia’s international armed conflict that is the best guarantee of security on the continent,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko said.

Nikolenko stressed that only Ukraine and NATO members have the right to decide the vector of further development of their relations, including the issue of Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance.

“The same position is shared by the North Atlantic Alliance itself, which is confirmed, in particular, in its statement of 16 December 2021. The same applies to the exclusive sovereign right of Ukraine to independently determine the development of relations with foreign states at the bilateral level, including in the field of military cooperation,” said the spokesperson.

He listed things Russia should do for de-escalation:

“We urge Russia… to return immediately and unconditionally to the constructive agenda and to start implementing the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy Leaders’ Agreements now, in particular the agreed conclusions of the 2019 Normandy Quarter summit. It is first of all strict adherence to the ceasefire, further draw away of forces, continuation of the demining process, implementation of the political aspects of the Agreed Conclusions of the Paris Summit, opening and ensuring the proper functioning of new checkpoints on the contact line, holding the next stages of mutual release of POWs and exchange of their lists.”

An earlier NATO statement published in the evening of 16th December firmly rejects any compromise with Kremlin regarding Ukraine:

“We will always respond in a determined way to any deterioration of our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defense posture as necessary. NATO will take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defense of all NATO Allies. Any further aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and would carry a high price… We support the right of all countries to decide their future and foreign policy free from outside interference. NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies. We firmly reject any attempts to divide Allied security.”

Upon receiving the statement on “security guarantees,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a briefing that NATO is considering a dialogue with Russia on this issue, but any dialogue should include the Alliance’s concerns and Ukraine’s position.

“We are clear that any dialogue with Russia must take into account NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on key principles and documents on European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners such as Ukraine,” he said.

According to him, NATO allies have made it clear that if Russia takes steps to reduce tensions, the Alliance is ready to work on “strengthening confidence-building measures.” At the same time, any further aggression against Ukraine will have huge consequences and will cost Russia dearly.

“We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. NATO’s relations with Ukraine are a matter only for Ukraine and 30 NATO allies,” Stoltenberg said.

US Spokesperson Jen Psaki also stressed that no negotiations would be held with Russia without the USA’s European allies and partners.

Russia said the previous day it was ready to send its negotiator “at any time” to begin talks with the United States on security guarantees that Moscow is seeking.

The demand that NATO not expand eastward is one of Russia’s long-standing ones. Lately, it was first dropped on 1 December, after a month of increasing tensions that had experts worldwide guessing whether Russia would invade Ukraine (again). We asked experts what to make of this ultimatum; read their answers here.

On 7 December, Russian President Putin and US President Biden held a phone call in which Putin reiterated the ultimatum he made earlier: to obtain “legally fixed guarantees” that exclude NATO’s eastward movement. Following the call, Biden suggested discussing with Russia its claims to the Alliance’s enlargement, including Ukraine’s accession, with only part of the Alliance’s “key countries,” a move that infuriated the Alliance’s eastern flank.

On 9 December, Biden indeed held a call with NATO members, but instead spoke with nine leaders of NATO members close to Russia, who are part of the Bucharest Nine group: Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. “The leaders discussed Russia’s destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine’s border and the need for a united, ready, and resolute NATO stance for the collective defense of Allies,” Bloomberg reported.

On 10 December, Russia again demanded NATO rescind a 2008 commitment to Ukraine and Georgia that they would one day become members and said the alliance should promise not to deploy weapons in countries bordering Russia that could threaten its security. The demands were spelled out by the Russian foreign ministry in its fullest statement yet on the security guarantees that President Vladimir Putin says he wants to obtain from the United States and its allies.

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