“I have spoken about the ‘red lines’ which we believe should not be crossed. I want everyone to understand -here in our country and abroad, so that our partners understand: the issue isn’t about the line which we don’t want someone to cross. The issue is that we have nowhere to fall back to. They [NATO] have squeezed us against such a line, pardon the expression, that we can’t move around,” Putin said, speaking in an interview with the Rossiya 1 television channel on Sunday.
At his annual year-end press conference on Thursday, the Russian president slammed Washington and its NATO allies for talking about “Russian aggression” while surrounding Moscow with offensive missile systems and carrying out several waves of expansion toward Russia’s borders. “You cheated us shamelessly,” Putin said.
The US and its allies have pinned Russia into a position from which it has nowhere to fall back to, President Vladimir Putin has said.
“I have already said – they’ll put missile systems in Ukraine, 4-5 minutes flight time to Moscow. Where can we move? They have simply driven us to such a state that we have to tell them: stop. That’s the whole point,” the Russian leader added.
Putin expressed hope that the Russian people, the Ukrainian people, the people of Europe and the United States understood the essence of the security proposals sent by Moscow to Washington and NATO, and publicised by the Foreign Ministry last week.
Putin admitted that the open publication of the proposals was unusual, and “not a very common way to conduct talks,” but said that Moscow decided to act as it did due to its concerns that NATO could stall negotiations while pumping Ukraine full of modern weapons.
“They will chat endlessly, speak endlessly about the need to negotiate, and do nothing, except pumping up our neighbour with modern weapons systems, and increase the threat to Russia, with which we will then be forced to somehow deal with, somehow live,” the president said.
Therefore, Putin noted, “our proposal is open and understandable.” “It puts all the participants of the [negotiation] process within a certain framework. But for us there is only one goal – to reach agreements which would ensure – both for today and over the long term, the security of Russia and its citizens,” he said.
Russian Foreign Ministry officials handed two draft proposals on security guarantees between Russia, the US and NATO to US diplomats in Moscow on 15 December, and published them in full on the ministry’s website shortly after.
The first, entitled ‘Treaty Between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Security Guarantees’, calls for legally binding commitments by the two countries not to deploy forces and troops in areas where they may be perceived as a threat to the other nation’s national security, and for limitations on the flying and sailing of aircraft and warships to within striking distance of the other party.
It also suggests the need for limits on the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles abroad in areas where they could hit targets in the other country, and prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons abroad.
The document calls on Washington to pledge not to continue NATO’s eastward expansion, and to refrain from cooperating militarily with post-Soviet states (except those which are already members of the alliance).
The second proposal, titled ‘Agreement on Measures to Ensure the Security of the Russian Federation and Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’, similarly calls for a halt in NATO’s expansion, and for Ukraine’s incorporation into the bloc to be prohibited. The proposed treaty also sets limits on the deployment of additional weapons and troops by alliance members to NATO’s eastern members, except in exceptional circumstances and with Russia’s agreement.
The draft proposal calls on both parties to refrain from military exercises above the brigade level near an agreed upon border zone, to exchange information on drills, and to establish hot lines for emergency contacts.
The Russia-NATO draft agreement also asks the parties to explicitly affirm that they do not consider one another as adversaries, and to make a commitment not to consciously create conditions which might be regarded as a threat by the other side.
Moscow has since clarified that the twin agreements should be “evaluated in their totality,” and are “not…a menu, where it is possible to pick and choose” components that one side happens to like. The Foreign Ministry has also warned that Russia will be forced to create a system of “counterthreats” if the proposals are rejected and NATO’s threatening behaviour continues.
US officials have confirmed that they plan to discuss the Russian proposals in January. However, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has rejected the stipulation on Ukraine’s status, saying that the alliance stands with Kiev’s “right to choose its own path,” and suggesting that the alliance never promised not to expand.
In 1990, US secretary of state James Baker did make a commitment to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand beyond the borders of a reunified Germany following East Germany’s annexation by the Federal Republic. In the decades since, the Western bloc has swallowed up every former member of the Warsaw Pact, and seven republics of the former USSR and Yugoslavia.