Putin reflects on options if the West refuses guarantees on Ukraine

MOSCOW –
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that he would consider a plethora of options if the West fails to meet its demand for security guarantees that prevent NATO expansion in Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO refuse membership to Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR and cancel its military deployments in central Europe and eastern.

Putin urged the West to act quickly to respond to the demands, warning that Moscow will have to take “adequate military-technical measures” if the West continues its “aggressive” run “on our doorstep.”

Asked to clarify what Moscow’s response might be, he said in comments broadcast on Sunday by Russian state television that “it could be diverse”, adding without giving any details that “it will depend on the proposals that our military experts have made. will submit to me “.

The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any eligible country. They did, however, agree to launch security talks with Russia next month to discuss its concerns.

Putin said talks with the United States will be held in Geneva. At the same time, negotiations are also expected to take place between Russia and NATO and broader discussions are expected under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In remarks released on Sunday, Putin said Russia had submitted its demands in the hope of a constructive response from the West.

“We did not do it simply to see it blocked … but in order to achieve a negotiated diplomatic result that would be set out in legally binding documents,” Putin said.

He reiterated that NATO membership for Ukraine or the deployment of alliance weapons there is a red line for Moscow that it would not allow the West to cross.

“We have nowhere to retreat,” he said, adding that NATO could deploy missiles in Ukraine that would only take four or five minutes to reach Moscow. “They pushed us to a line that we cannot cross. They pushed it to the point where we just have to tell them; ‘Stop!”‘

He expressed concern that the United States and its allies might try to drag out the security talks and use them as a cover to continue military build-up near Russia.

He noted that Russia has released its security demands to publicize them and increase pressure on the United States and its allies to negotiate a security deal.

“We have only one goal – to reach agreements that will ensure the security of Russia and its citizens now and in the long term,” he said.

The Kremlin has presented its demand for security amid tensions over the build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks, which have fueled Western fears of a possible invasion. US President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call earlier this month that Russia would face “serious consequences” if it attacked Ukraine.

Russia has denied its intention to launch an invasion and, in turn, accused Ukraine of drawing up plans to attempt to regain control of territory held by Moscow-backed rebels by force. Ukraine rejected the request.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and soon after supported a separatist rebellion in the east of the country. For more than seven years, fighting left more than 14,000 dead and devastated the industrial heart of Ukraine, known as Donbass.

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Christi C. Elwood