Russia publishes list of security demands to defuse Ukraine crisis

Russia has released a wishlist of security demands it wants to negotiate with the West to defuse a crisis involving Ukraine, including a legally binding guarantee that the NATO military alliance would renounce all activity in its neighbor and in other ex-Soviet countries.

The demands form an ambitious and ultimately unrealistic package which, according to Moscow, is an essential condition for reducing tensions with Ukraine, which Western countries have accused Russia of sizing for a potential attack – which it has denied.

The list also contained items – such as an effective Russian veto on Ukraine’s NATO membership – that the West has already excluded.

Presenting the demands in detail for the first time, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on Friday that Russia and the West must start from scratch to rebuild their relations.

“The line followed by the United States and NATO in recent years to aggressively worsen the security situation is absolutely unacceptable and extremely dangerous,” he declared.

“Washington and its NATO allies should immediately cease regular hostile actions against our country, including unplanned exercises (…) and maneuvering of military ships and planes, and stop the military development of Ukrainian territory. “

Ryabkov said Russia is no longer willing to put up with the current situation. He urged the United States to take the proposals seriously and quickly find a constructive response.

Ryabkov said Russia was ready to start talks as early as Saturday, with Geneva as a possible venue, and his negotiating team was ready.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded on Friday, stressing that any security talks with Moscow should take into account the alliance’s concerns and involve Ukraine and other partners.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States had seen the proposals and was speaking to its allies.

“There will be no European security talks without our European allies and partners,” Psaki told reporters.

Russian news agency TASS quoted Ryabkov as later saying that Moscow was extremely disappointed with the signals coming from the United States and NATO.

Russia handed its proposals to the United States earlier this week amid mounting tensions over reinforcing Russian troops near Ukraine.

Moscow says it is reacting to what it sees as threats to its own security amid Ukraine’s increasingly close relationship with NATO and aspirations to join the alliance, even if it does not. There is no imminent prospect that Ukraine will be allowed to join.

The Russian proposals were spelled out in two documents – a draft agreement with NATO countries and a draft treaty with the United States, both issued by the Foreign Office.

Sam Greene, professor of Russian politics at King’s College London, said on Twitter that President Vladimir Putin “drew a line around post-Soviet space and planted a ‘forbid yourself’ sign.”

“It’s not meant to be a treaty: it’s a declaration,” he said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a prelude to war. It is a justification for maintaining Moscow’s incisive position, in order to unbalance Washington and others. The question is, how long can this be maintained before it loses its effectiveness? “

Reuters and AP

Christi C. Elwood