In an apparent attempt to clarify its demands of the NATO military alliance in Europe, Moscow has circulated a proposed draft treaty, laying down a provocative demand—that all states formerly within the Soviet Union be refused admission to NATO in order to preserve peace and stability.
While such a demand is clearly intended to target Ukraine, which has openly pursued NATO membership since 2014 in spite of Moscow’s warnings, it would also preclude other Eurasian post-Soviet states such as Georgia from joining the alliance—although there is little to suggest that NATO will consider the demand.
The document, which was made publicly available on Friday, also insisted that NATO begin to withdraw weapons systems and troops from their positions in eastern Europe, which Moscow has argued constitute a threat against it. It requested that NATO curtail military exercises near its border, and suggested that both sides refrain from sending ships and aircraft near one another’s territory.
Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, indicated after the document’s publication that negotiations over it should begin immediately in Switzerland, claiming that tensions between Russia and the West had reached a “dangerous point.”
But the document was immediately discounted by NATO officials, with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg claiming that any future security talks with Moscow would need to discuss Russia’s own malign behavior in eastern Europe and involve Ukrainian input. The United States has indicated that it is reviewing the proposals and intends to continue discussions with Moscow but pointedly claimed that all countries, presumably including Ukraine, had the right to pursue their own security arrangements, free from outside pressures.
The complicated relationship between Russia and Ukraine turned decisively sour in 2014 after the Russian government seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and began to support rebels in the country’s eastern Donbas region. In the aftermath of those events—which were condemned in the West and led to American and European economic sanctions against Russian officials—Ukraine steadily moved closer to the West, and in June 2017 passed a resolution in its parliament describing entry into NATO as a strategic foreign policy priority. The country’s National Security Strategy, adopted in 2020, provides for greater cooperation between Ukraine and NATO, and officials in Brussels have pursued increasing military cooperation with Kyiv, to Moscow’s consternation.
Ukraine’s attempts at NATO accession have come with controversy, however, with some commentators highlighting the country’s ongoing struggle against corruption and human rights abuses as reasons that the United States and Europe should not be contractually obligated to defend it from invasion.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.