By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW – Russia on Friday laid out an array of security guarantees it wants from the West including promises to give up any military activity in Ukraine and eastern Europe and not to expand the NATO military alliance further.
The demands, spelt out by Moscow in full for the first time, form a package that Russia says is an essential requirement for lowering tensions in Europe and defusing the crisis over Ukraine.
But they contain elements – such as an effective Russian veto on NATO membership for Ukraine – that the West has already ruled out.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Russia and West must start from a clean sheet in rebuilding relations.
“The line pursued by the United States and NATO over recent years to aggressively escalate the security situation is absolutely unacceptable and extremely dangerous,” he said.
“Washington and its NATO allies should immediately stop regular hostile actions against our country, including unscheduled exercises, dangerous rapprochements and manoeuvres of military ships and planes, and stop the military development of Ukrainian territory.”
Ryabkov told reporters that Russia was not willing to put up with the current situation any more. He urged the United States to take the proposals seriously and come up with a constructive response.
Ryabkov said Russia was ready to start talks as soon as Saturday, with Geneva as a possible venue, and its negotiating team was ready.
But Interfax news agency quoted him earlier as saying the United States and NATO were so far rejecting the ideas and their response was not encouraging.
Moscow handed over its proposals to the United States this week amid soaring tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine. Western countries have warned Russia may be about to launch a new attack on Ukraine, something Moscow has denied.
Russia says it is responding to what it sees as threats to its own security from Ukraine’s increasingly close relations with NATO and aspirations to join the alliance.
RIA news agency summarised the key points of Moscow’s proposals as:
- To rule out further NATO expansion and Ukraine’s accession to the alliance
- Not to deploy additional troops and weapons outside the countries in which they were in May 1997 (before any Eastern European countries joined the alliance) – except in exceptional cases with the consent of Russia and NATO members
- To abandon any NATO military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia
- Not to deploy intermediate and shorter-range missiles where they can hit the territory of the other side
- Not to conduct exercises with more than one military brigade in an agreed border zone, and to regularly exchange information about military exercises
- To confirm that the parties do not consider each other as adversaries, and agree to resolve all disputes peacefully and refrain from the use of force
- To commit not to create conditions that might be perceived as a threat by the other party
- To create hotlines for emergency contacts.