Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled on Friday that Russia is interested in continuing talks with the United States on security guarantees, even though Washington and its allies have outright rejected Moscow’s demand to halt NATO expansion. Russia’s further actions will depend on written responses from the United States and NATO to its requests. Meanwhile, the European Union persistently wants to intervene in the negotiation process. From the speech of Sergei Lavrov, however, it follows that Russia considers it expedient to negotiate primarily with the United States.
On Friday, Sergei Lavrov held a three-hour press conference on the foreign policy results of the year. Its key topic, as expected, was the negotiations between the Russian Federation and the US/NATO on security guarantees. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry made a number of attacks on Washington and its allies, accusing them of undermining the architecture of international relations and contributing to the accumulation of conflict potential in different regions of the world. At the same time, his speech was slightly more positive than the statements made by the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin the day before.
Thus, Sergei Lavrov said that he hoped to continue the series of talks on the Russian initiative on security guarantees that took place this week (for more details on the results of the meetings in the RF-US, RF-NATO and RF-OSCE format, see Kommersant on January 14) . “If there is goodwill and willingness to compromise, mutually acceptable solutions can always be found,” he said. And he recalled that Moscow and Washington managed to reach a number of similar decisions over the past year: they extended the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty for five years, launched a dialogue on strategic stability and cybersecurity, reaffirmed the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won, therefore it should never be untied. On January 3, the same statement on the inadmissibility of nuclear war was adopted for the first time by the entire “five” permanent members of the UN Security Council.
In Moscow, as Sergei Lavrov explained, next week, “plus or minus”, they are waiting for a written reaction from the United States and NATO to two draft security guarantee treaties handed over to them in December by the Russian side.
“We want to see the position “on paper,” article by article, for each of our points in both documents, get a response: what is suitable, what is not, and why. If this needs to be supplemented with something, let them formulate amendments, ”he explained.
And he warned: “We will not wait forever. There are plans to “wind up” this process. To be frank, everyone understands that the prospect of reaching an agreement depends on the United States. Whatever we are told about the need to consult with allies (USA on NATO.— “b”) and to involve all OSCE members in these negotiations are all excuses and attempts to drag out the process.”
Sergei Lavrov again stressed that Russia’s priority is to obtain legally binding guarantees of NATO’s non-expansion to the East. “If our proposals are rejected, then we will assess the situation and report to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” the Foreign Minister continued. The president, in turn, as follows from Sergey Lavrov’s explanation, will decide on further actions to “reliably ensure the country’s security” based on proposals from the military. What could be Russia’s response to the US and NATO’s refusal to fulfill its demands, the head of Russian diplomacy did not specify.
American media on Friday, citing sources in the White House and intelligence, reported that Russia was allegedly preparing a provocation in the Donbass to use it as a pretext for invading Ukraine. The Pentagon confirmed this. The spokesman for the agency, John Kirby, said the case was about “a group of operatives who are preparing to conduct a false flag operation.”
The press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov, in an interview with TASS, however, called this information “nothing confirmed and unfounded.” At the same time, representatives of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, on the contrary, announced the impending offensive of the Ukrainian military, who are assisted by Western instructors.
Sergei Lavrov, speaking at a press conference, also made it clear that military cooperation between Ukraine and NATO countries is unacceptable for Russia, even without the formal entry of this republic into the alliance.
“Even if Ukraine remains outside NATO, there are possible bilateral agreements with the Americans, the British, and other Western countries that create military facilities and bases on the Sea of Azov there. This is also unacceptable for us, because the deployment of strike weapons on the territory of our neighbors, in this case Ukraine, which will pose a threat to Russia, is another red line,” Sergei Lavrov said. And he drew another red line: “There are several hundred American and British military in Ukraine, the participation of Western instructors in the conflict in Donbass will cross all red lines and mean a direct clash between Russian people and NATO military.” But the main task of Russia, as Sergei Lavrov repeated many times, is to prevent the full integration of Ukraine into NATO.
The minister was asked why Moscow put forward this and other demands to the US and NATO at this very moment, given that relations between them have long been strained. “Accumulated. It accumulated over the period after the 1990s, when promises were made about non-expansion of NATO, non-promotion of military infrastructure to the East and non-deployment of significant combat forces on the territory of new members (North Atlantic Alliance.— “b”) were rudely thrown into the basket by our Western friends,” he replied. “Our patience has come to an end. We are very patient. We harnessed for a very long time, it’s time for us to go. We are waiting for the driver on that wagon to respond to our proposals.
Meanwhile, another party insists on the right to participate in the process of developing new rules for European security: the European Union.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday accused Russia of deliberately excluding the EU from negotiations.
“If negotiations continue, the Europeans must be involved. So far, I am completely satisfied with the actions of the US and the NATO Secretary General. Obviously, Russia tried to divide us by bypassing the EU, as if it did not exist … But the United States did not play this game: they assured us that nothing would be discussed without the Europeans, ”he said. According to Josep Borrell, the United States held consultations with the European Union “before negotiations with Russia, after negotiations and during negotiations.” Moscow, in his opinion, is trying to “go back in history to the moment when the EU did not exist, and on the European continent there were zones of influence divided among the great powers.”
From Sergey Lavrov’s comments, in turn, it followed: Moscow is aware that the European Union is actively “offended” that it was left “overboard”. Russia, according to him, is interested in normalizing relations with the EU, but does not consider that he acts as an independent player. “We see how the European Union fears that its interests may be ignored. They openly admit this both after Afghanistan and after the epic with the Australian submarines. Signals from some EU members about the need to form strategic autonomy in security matters have become more active, but at the same time there is a very tough lobby in the European Union that opposes any attempts to separate from NATO in security matters and insists that NATO is the key to security, including and for the EU,” said the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Kommersant asked Sergey Lavrov about the evolution of his views on the European Union. At the end of last year, he said that the principles from which the EU proceeds, building a strategy in the Russian direction, “reminiscent of a political Kama Sutra”, and at the beginning of this year he already announced the “impotence” of the European Union. “What happened over the holidays?” – asked “Kommersant”. “Nothing has changed,” Sergey Lavrov answered. He explained that his words about impotence referred to the negotiability of the European Union, which, according to Moscow, does not fulfill what was agreed with it. “By and large, we are not very concerned about who will participate in the negotiations if the United States is at the head of the process,” Mr. Lavrov said. According to the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, it is the United States that determines how security policy is built in Europe and in many other parts of the world.