Russia demands Ukraine, ex-Soviet nations barred from NATO

Moscow sets out tough terms in draft security documents which have been submitted to the US and its allies.

Russia on Friday published draft security pacts demanding that Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries be barred from joining NATO, and that restrictions on troops and weapons in Europe be put in place.

The documents, which have been submitted to the United States and its allies earlier this week, also call for a ban on sending US and Russian warships and aircraft to areas from where they can strike each other’s territory and demand a rollback on the deployment of alliance troops near Russian borders.

The tough demands appear certain to be rejected by the US and its allies, which have emphasised that Russia does not have a say in NATO’s enlargement.

The alliance’s secretary-general warned that any security talks with Moscow would need to take into account NATO concerns and involve Ukraine and other partners.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia’s relations with the US 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 draft pacts — a Russia-US security treaty and a security agreement between Moscow and NATO — contain obligations to pull back weapons and refrain from drills near the borders between Russia and the alliance members.

Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow proposed that the US immediately start the talks on the proposed drafts in Geneva.

They would also preclude the US and its allies from setting up military bases on the territories of Ukraine, Georgia and other ex-Soviet nations which are not members of NATO.

A draft treaty with the US contains a ban on the deployment of US and Russian warships and aircraft to “areas where they can strike targets on the territory of the other party”.

Moscow has long complained about patrol flights by US strategic bombers near Russian borders and the deployment of US and NATO warships to the Black Sea, describing them as destabilizing and provocative.

President Vladimir Putin raised the demand for security guarantees in last week’s video call with US President Joe Biden. During the conversation, Biden voiced concern about a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and warned him that Russia would face “severe consequences” if Moscow attacked its neighbour.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the alliance had received the Russian draft documents, and noted that any dialogue with Moscow “would also need to address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on core principles and documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners, such as Ukraine”.

He added that the 30 NATO countries “have made clear that should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures”.

US intelligence officials say Russia has moved 70,000 soldiers to its border with Ukraine and is preparing for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied any intention to attack and accused Ukrainian authorities of planning an offensive to reclaim control of rebel-held eastern Ukraine — an allegation Ukraine has rejected.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It has killed more than 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland called Donbas.

(Al Jazeera)

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