As Russia continues to mass troops on the Ukrainian border, Russian officials are attempting to cast blame for any potential conflict on the United States and NATO. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Western powers have failed to take Russia's concerns on security guarantees fully into account when drawing up responses to Moscow's proposals. Peskov even suggested that U.S. and NATO officials have demonstrated little to no willingness to do so.
Last month, Moscow shared two draft agreements outlining the security guarantees that it demands from Washington and NATO. Just this week, the United States and NATO handed Russia their written responses to Moscow’s proposals. The two draft accords—one with the United States and the other with NATO—called for NATO to essentially rewrite its post-Cold War security order in Europe. The demands included a prohibition on accepting new members of the alliance, including Ukraine, and a commitment to end NATO military activity in Eastern Europe.
The draft accords also placed restrictions on the deployment of major offensive weapons and even called for NATO to remove any troops and weapons from countries that joined the international alliance after 1997. That would encompass most of Eastern Europe, including Poland, the Baltic and Balkan members, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.
In other words, Moscow would like to see any former members of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union excluded from NATO.
"This is a bargaining position—[the Kremlin] is trying to get some degree of partial acceptance," Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, told the Moscow Times.
However, NATO has seen these demands as fully unacceptable, which shouldn't be a surprise to Russia. And yet, the Kremlin is attempting to claim that NATO isn't willing to negotiate in good faith.
"The numerous statements that our colleagues made yesterday make it clear that as for the major aspects of the draft agreements that we earlier presented to other parties, we can't say that they took our concerns into account or showed any readiness to take our concerns into consideration," said Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman.
Peskov also noted that the United States and NATO asked Russia not to make their responses public. "However, our colleagues spelled out the contents of those papers and in fact, maybe they really should not be [published] now," Peskov added.
These tensions come on the heels of Russia’s decision to cut ties with NATO last year.
On Wednesday, NATO said in a statement that it "firmly believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. Not through force or the threat of force."
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added: "What we have made clear is that we will not compromise on some core principles. And one of them is, of course, that every nation has the right to choose its own path. Reaffirming NATO’s open door policy, Stoltenberg stated that “NATO respects a country or a nation when they decide to apply for NATO membership, as for instance, Ukraine, or when they decide to not apply for a NATO membership as Finland and Sweden have done.
Stoltenberg emphasized that "this is about respecting the right for self-determination." However, he noted that decisions on membership must have the support of all thirty members of NATO.
While it would seem that NATO isn't about to back down, Moscow is wrong to suggest that its security guarantees were simply shrugged off.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.