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20 Jan, 2022 08:28

Russia suggests how US could seal a security deal

Moscow wants the US to agree not to let Kiev into NATO
Russia suggests how US could seal a security deal

If Washington wants to do a deal with Moscow over security guarantees in Europe, it must agree to make a binding commitment that it will never allow Ukraine to become a part of NATO, Russia has insisted.

Speaking to a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov rejected the idea that a short-term moratorium on Ukraine’s accession would be acceptable, stating that Moscow would only be happy with Washington’s promise to unilaterally put an end to Kiev’s aspirations.

Last year, Russia proposed a draft treaty to the US, which included other security guarantees like a commitment to reduce military exercises in Eastern Europe and a ban on placing missiles near the country's frontier. The text also included a call for the Americans to commit to ruling out NATO expansion in countries that used to be republics of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine.

According to NATO rules, every new member state must be unanimously approved by all countries that already belong to the US-led bloc, so one country’s agreement would be enough to end Kiev’s hopes.

“This well-known formula of the 2008 Bucharest summit, which agreed that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO, must be removed. It has to be replaced with an understanding that this will never happen,” Ryabkov said, referring to the meeting in Romania, where the US-led bloc came to the decision that the two former Soviet republics would eventually join.

“Or alternatively, the US could make a legally binding unilateral commitment that it will never vote for Ukraine and other countries to join NATO. We are ready to consider that option,” he said.

Accession of Ukraine to NATO has long been a red line for Russia. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly blasted the eastward expansion of the alliance as a threat to Moscow, and he has accused Brussels of breaking promises made in the 1990s that the bloc would come no closer to the Russian border. Now, Putin wants Washington to sign a legally binding agreement and is no longer content with verbal promises.

“As has been repeatedly emphasized from the Russian side, the issue is urgent. We are not ready to wait endlessly, and we are not willing to immerse ourselves in the usual diplomatic, bureaucratic nonsense about which formats are optimal for this. We need a direct and clear answer, and in writing,” Ryabkov explained. “What we need, above all else, is a legal guarantee of NATO’s non-expansion… and a reliable solution to the issue of non-deployment of strike weapons along our borders.”

Ryabkov rejected a suggestion that Moscow could agree to a temporary moratorium on NATO expansion, such as for 10 or 20 years.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday to continue discussions over the future of European security.