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Russia issues list of demands to NATO

December 17, 2021

Russia has released a series of security demands to NATO, including a veto on the alliance's expansion. It is calling for an immediate dialogue, but NATO members aren't likely to acquiesce to Moscow's wish list.

A Russian army soldier stands with his rifle during an exercise at the Kadamovskiy firing range
The West has accused Russia of amassing troops in preparation of a supposed Ukrainian invasionImage: AP /picture alliance

Russia on Friday released a series of demands to the United States and NATO if it is to restore relations.

It comes as tensions between the West and Russia have ratcheted up, with fears of a military invasion of Ukraine and continuing hybrid warfare at the European Union's external border with Belarus.

The Russian documents were submitted to the US and its allies earlier this week. The publication of unfinished agreements is an unusual move in international diplomacy.

What does Russia want?

  • An end to NATO military activity in eastern Europe, including Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia
  • No expansion of NATO membership, particularly to Ukraine
  • No intermediate or shorter-range missiles deployed close enough to hit the territory of the other side
  • No military exercises of more than one military brigade in an agreed border zone  
  • An agreement that parties do not consider each other as adversaries and will resolve disputes peacefully
  • Neither Russia nor the United States can deploy nuclear weapons outside their national territories

What did Russia say?

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Russia and the West needed to start afresh in rebuilding relations.

"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 ... and maneuvers of military ships and planes, and stop the military development of Ukrainian territory."

Ryabkov said Russia was willing to start talks as soon as Saturday, and proposed Geneva as a venue.

What was the response from NATO members?

The United States has made clear that Russia has no say in NATO membership and said it would not negotiate without Europe's input.

"There will be no talks on European security without our European allies and partners," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "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 the outside interference."

Speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event, US national security advisor Jake Sulliivan said the US is prepared for dialogue with Russia in the appropriate format.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had received the draft documents. He said 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 said the 30 NATO member countries "have made clear that should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures."

NATO diplomats told news agency Reuters that Moscow cannot have a veto on further alliance expansion.

"Russia is not a member of NATO and doesn't decide on matters related to NATO," Polish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said.

The UK lent its support to Ukraine amid the crisis, vowing to use all its "diplomatic and economic powers" to counter Russian "aggression," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a call.

Russian posturing a 'smokescreen' says expert

Some experts have cast doubt over whether Russia genuinely believes NATO will cede to its demands, or the Kremlin is merely to distract from its objectives.

"Something is very wrong with this picture, [the policy] appears to be a smokescreen," Michael Kofman, a Russia specialist at Virginia-based research organization CNA, posted on Twitter.

jsi, aw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)