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13 Jan, 2022 10:14

‘Only threat to Ukraine is Ukraine itself’: Key takeaways from Moscow’s view of NATO-Russia negotiations

Deputy foreign minister insists de-escalation is possible despite ‘fundamental differences’
‘Only threat to Ukraine is Ukraine itself’: Key takeaways from Moscow’s view of NATO-Russia negotiations

The long awaited NATO-Russia council meeting, held in Brussels on Wednesday, exposed conflicting views in the approach to international security taken by Moscow and the US-led military bloc.

The get together marked the first session of the international body since 2019 and it followed crucial direct US-Russia talks earlier this week in Geneva.

Following the Brussels consultations, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko held a large press conference, providing Moscow’s take on what was discussed.

Fundamental differences

NATO-Russia negotiations involved a “frank, direct, deep and intense” conversation, Grushko said. At the same time, the meeting highlighted the “fundamental differences” between the US-led bloc and Moscow in their stance on key security issues, with effectively “no unifying positive agenda” in sight.

“NATO understands the principle of the indivisibility of security selectively. In the eyes of NATO, it exists only for the members of the alliance. NATO is not going to take into account the interests of others. We proceed from the premise that the indivisibility of security should be for everyone,” the diplomat said, stressing that Moscow won’t allow anyone to build “security against Russia without Russia.”

Moscow awaits concrete proposals from NATO

Russia is expecting the US-led bloc to table counter-proposals in response to the security guarantees agreement drafted by Moscow back in December. So far, the West has been quite vague in its response to the  draft, expressing readiness to talk while calling some of the proposals unacceptable.

While no coherent written response has been produced so far, the Brussels talks gave the “impression” that a document such as this may emerge, Grushko said.

“The Russian proposals were presented in written form, they are perfectly comprehensible and interconnected. We also expect the NATO countries to present their views on how to follow the path of implementing the proposals that we put forward. Or explain why they are unacceptable,” the diplomat stated.

Expansion of NATO remains key issue

The expansion of the military bloc, which Russia repeatedly names as its main foreign policy concern, just moves international tension around instead of fixing it in any fashion, Grushko stated.

“As for NATO expansion in general – I will not name the countries now – we have always said that NATO expansion does not solve any problems in the field of security. NATO expansion does not erase lines of division, but shifts them in the direction where it is expanding,” the diplomat said.

If the confrontational trend in relations between NATO and Russia continues, Moscow will be forced to take reciprocal steps, he warned. Therefore, if NATO, which regards Russia as its “main adversary,” continues the policy of “containing” the country, Moscow will be forced to engage into “counter-containing” the bloc, Grushko explained.

‘Only threat to Ukraine is Ukraine itself’

Ukraine was one of the centerpieces of the Brussels negotiations, with discussions of the situation around the country taking up a vast part of the meeting, Grushko revealed. The West’s approach somewhat contradicted the principle postulated by the US Department of State to “not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine,” the diplomat noted.

“Today our partners discussed Ukraine, well, probably for an hour and a half out of [the] four allotted,” he added.

The diplomat reiterated Moscow’s position that Russia does not pose any threat to Ukraine. Over the past few months, Russia has been repeatedly accused by the West of seeking to allegedly “invade” the neighboring country, a charge Moscow has consistently denied.

Let me emphasize once again that the threat to Ukraine is Ukraine itself. Nobody else.

Chance for peace

The de-escalation of the situation around Ukraine, repeatedly urged by the West, is actually possible, Grushko said. Still, the process lay solely in the hands of the West itself, rather than on Russia.

To achieve it, NATO and other Western countries must press Kiev into fulfilling the Minsk agreements – a comprehensive 2015 deal that provides a roadmap out of the conflict between the Ukrainian authorities and the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, the diplomat explained.

“First of all, it is necessary to press the authorities in Kiev into a full and unconditional implementation of the Minsk agreements,” he said. “If the Minsk agreements are implemented, there will be no threat to the security of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.”

To facilitate the de-escalation, the US-led bloc should also stop supplying Kiev with weaponry and “recall its instructors, officers, and soldiers” from the country, Grushko added.