Russia’s main concerns over Ukraine not addressed by NATO, says US Foreign Minister Lavrov
“There is no positive reaction to the main issue of this document,” Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “The main problem is our clear position on the inadmissibility of further NATO expansion in the East and the deployment of strike weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Russia has repeatedly denied it was planning an invasion, but argued that NATO support for Ukraine – including increased arms supplies and military training – posed a growing threat on its western flank.
Lavrov explained that the United States and NATO had previously agreed, within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), not to expand at the expense of Russia’s security.
“We present non-verbal pledges, written documents signed by the leaders of all OSCE countries, including the President of the United States (Istanbul Declaration 1999, Astana Declaration 2010), our partners Westerners have to get out of a more serious situation,” Lavrov explained. “This principle is clearly stated. It has two main interrelated approaches. First, the right of each state to freely choose military alliances is recognized. Second: the obligation of each State not to strengthen its security to the detriment of the security of others. ”
“In other words, the right to choose alliances is clearly conditioned by the need to take into account the security interests of any other OSCE state, including the Russian Federation,” Lavrov concluded.
The Russian foreign minister admitted that the responses from the United States and NATO could lead to serious discussions, but only on secondary issues.
“There is a reaction there that allows us to count on a start of serious conversation, but on secondary subjects,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed the same concerns on Thursday, saying that on the surface Russia’s main concerns had not been addressed. However, he declined to give an official definitive answer to the responses presented by the United States and NATO.
“The president has already read the written responses,” he said. “All the papers are with the president. It will take time to analyze them, we will not rush to conclusions.”
Russia’s official response will not be long, but Peskov warned that this would not happen right away.
NATO sees “room for improvement”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the US written response to Russia “establishes a serious diplomatic path if Russia chooses it.”
The United States has repeatedly stated that Putin’s central demand, that the United States and NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine into the alliance, is non-negotiable.
Blinken declined to elaborate on details presented to Moscow in the written response, but reiterated the West’s public response to maintain NATO’s “open door policy”, rejecting Moscow’s demands that NATO s undertake never to admit Ukraine.
“There is no change. There will be no change,” Blinken said of US and NATO support for the alliance’s open door policy.
“We make it clear that there are fundamental principles which we are committed to respecting and defending, including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the right of States to choose their own arrangements and alliances in matters of security,” he added.
NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the alliance’s written response was sent “in parallel to the United States.”
Although Moscow and the alliance’s positions are “far apart”, the NATO chief outlined three main areas where NATO sees “room for improvement”. He asked that Moscow and NATO reopen their “respective offices in Moscow and Brussels”.
It is unclear whether the latest diplomatic overture, which Moscow had sought, will change the course of the talks between Russia and the West that have been going on for the past few weeks.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Zaytsev told reporters on Thursday that they considered the idea of a war between Russia and Ukraine “unacceptable”, adding that a discussion of a ceasefire fire in eastern Ukraine in Paris “was not easy” and ended without result.
He was referring to Wednesday’s meeting of the so-called Normandy format – a four-way conversation between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France – which is trying to broker peace in the east of Ukraine since 2014.
Zaytsev said he hoped for a different outcome when the four countries meet again in Berlin in two weeks. “There is no alternative to the Minsk agreements,” he said, referring to the regional peace framework that has repeatedly failed since its first partial implementation in 2015.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a positive assessment of the talks, in a statement Thursday that called the discussion significant.
The White House, however, disputed the official’s account, warning that unnamed sources were “running lies.” They said Biden had warned Zelensky that an impending invasion was a “distinct possibility.”
During the call, which the Ukrainian official described as “long and candid,” Biden warned his Ukrainian counterpart that a Russian attack could be imminent, saying an invasion was now virtually certain once the ground had cleared. frozen later in February, according to the official.
Zelensky, however, reaffirmed his position that the threat from Russia remains “dangerous but ambiguous”, and it is uncertain whether an attack will take place, the official said.
Troop build-up sounds the alarm
The Ukrainians – who have been at war for almost eight years since Russia annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists seized control of the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk – desperately need a respite from the drumbeats of war.
“People admit that uncertainty and a lack of clear emergency instructions drain their intellectual and emotional resources, making it difficult to focus on current tasks and their ability to make long-term plans,” she writes. .
On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow, not Kyiv, must make concessions to defuse tensions in the region.
“The logic that Ukraine always has to make concessions to prevent Russia from being more aggressive … doesn’t work that way,” Kuleba told reporters during a visit to Copenhagen.
“I strongly believe that it is important for Western countries to succeed in this particular crisis, for the reasons I have mentioned, because in recent years Russia has not only attacked Ukraine,” he said. he said, pointing the finger at Moscow using gas supplies, alleged cyberattacks and other tactics to hit the West.
CNN’s Yulia Shevchenko, Katherina Krebs, Jennifer Deaton, Kara Fox, Radina Gigova, Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.