Russia’s ‘Red Lines’ in Ukraine: The West Rejects Putin’s Demands, Seeking Talks in January

Written by | Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has sought a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council for 12 January, an alliance spokesman said Sunday (26 December), amid heightened tension over Russia’s military build-up around Ukraine. Russia, which has unnerved the West with a troop buildup near Ukraine, last week unveiled a wish list of security proposals it wants to negotiate, including a promise NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. “We have already received this (NATO) offer, and we are considering it,” the foreign ministry was quoted as saying. France and Germany earlier called on both the Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine to respect the restoration of a full ceasefire — “We urge the sides to respect the ceasefire and to continue discussions on further steps in the humanitarian field, e.g. the opening of crossing points and the exchange of detainees, along with the rest of the Conclusions of the 2019 Paris Summit.”
Kyiv has been battling a pro-Moscow insurgency in two breakaway eastern regions bordering Russia since 2014, shortly after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014. Western countries accuse Russia of plotting to invade Ukraine and massing around 100,000 troops on the ex-Soviet country’s borders. The West is also worrying that Russia would use any “provocation” to launch an attack on Ukrainian territory, as it did in 2008 in Georgia. Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists have accused each other of breaching a fresh ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. A day (23 December) after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that Russia and Ukraine had agreed to restore the ceasefire, Kyiv and separatists accused each other of new violations, and a separatist representative denied that a new truce had been negotiated. The latest escalation is sometimes compared to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia wanted to avoid conflict but needed an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to its demands for security guarantees. The Kremlin has also underlined Europe’s dependence on its gas, while keeping EU powers guessing over its next move on Ukraine. US President Joe Biden’s administration has said some of Russia’s security proposals are obviously unacceptable, but that Washington will respond with more concrete ideas on the format of any talks. The Kremlin’s demands contain elements – such as an effective Russian veto on future NATO membership for Ukraine – that the West has already ruled out. Others would imply the removal of US nuclear weapons from Europe and the withdrawal of multinational NATO battalions from Poland and from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that were once in the Soviet Union.

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