Russia demands end to Nato military presence in Ukraine in return for security guarantees

Kremlin tells Nato that Ukraine and Georgia cannot be allowed to join military alliance

Ukrainian armed forces drive a self-propelled rocket launcher along a pontoon bridge while crossing the Aidar River during military drills near Novoaidar in the Luhansk region. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Russia has demanded Nato end its military activities in Ukraine and not allow new members into the alliance as part of security guarantees to lower tension in Eastern Europe.

The proposal calls for a ban on the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, a general pullback of weapons and ending drills near the borders between Russia and Nato member states.

The publication of the two draft texts — one sent to Nato, the other to the US — come at a time of particularly heightened tension in the region.

Russia has massed as many as 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, leading to concerns in some western capitals that an invasion is imminent. Moscow denies these claims and says it is responding to perceived threats to its security.

Nato members have thrown their support behind Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, and threatened Russia with sanctions if it violates Ukrainian territorial integrity.

While Nato promised membership to Ukraine and former Soviet state Georgia in 2008, the prospect of their ascension is seen as unlikely in the short term. Despite that, Nato is likely to push back against the demands as it has rejected any say from Moscow in the expansion of the alliance.

In announcing the proposals, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, said “western capitals” were acutely aware of Moscow’s opposition to Ukraine and Georgia ever joining Nato.

He said Moscow’s relations with Washington and its Nato allies have approached a “dangerous point”, noting that alliance deployments and drills near Russia have raised “unacceptable” threats to its security.

“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,” Mr Ryabkov added.

Biden warns Putin over troop build-up outside Ukraine

Biden warns Putin over troop build-up outside Ukraine

Moscow handed over its proposals to the US this week, days after a call between President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Mr Ryabkov said Russian officials were “ready to immediately travel” to a neutral country for negotiations with the US and added that Geneva had been proposed by Moscow.

“We propose writing down that the US and Russia don't view each other as opponents and will use bilateral and multilateral consultations to resolve conflicting situations. It's also important to ascertain the principle of non-interference in each others' internal affairs,” he added.

In response, the White House said they had seen the proposals and would consult with US allies in Europe.

“There will be no talks on European security without our European allies and partners,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

“We will not compromise the key principles on which European security is built, including that all countries have the right to decide their own future and foreign policy, free from outside interference,” she added.

A senior US official later reiterated the position and warned Moscow of "massive, massive consequences" if it invades Ukraine.

In a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country would use all of its diplomatic and economic powers to stop any Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

“He reiterated the message relayed to President Putin about the UK’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy discussed the importance of Ukraine and other European states reducing their dependence on Russian gas and the need to cultivate green and diverse energy sources," the spokesperson said.

Updated: December 17, 2021, 5:37 PM