Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the United States and its allies had ignored Russia’s key security demands, but that Moscow was still open to further talks with the West on easing rising tensions over from Ukraine.
Putin argued that it is possible to negotiate an end to the standoff if the interests of all parties, including Russia’s security concerns, are taken into account.
He lamented Western refusal to consider Kremlin demands for guarantees that NATO will not expand into Ukraine, deploy weapons near the Russian border and withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe. East.
The demands – rejected by NATO and the US as non-starters – come amid fears that Russia could invade Ukraine, fueled by the buildup of around 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders . Talks between Russia and the West have so far yielded no progress.
The Russian leader accused Western allies’ refusal to heed Russian demands violates their security integrity obligations for all nations and insisted a solution could be reached through more talks.
Meeting with the Hungarian leader
He warned that Ukraine’s NATO membership could lead to a situation where Ukrainian authorities would launch military action to regain control of Crimea or areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists in the east. from the country.
“Imagine Ukraine becoming a member of NATO and launching these military operations,” Putin said. “Should we then fight NATO?” Has anyone thought of it?
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 after ousting the country’s Moscow-friendly president and then threw its weight behind rebels in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, sparking conflict which left more than 14,000 dead.
Speaking after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban in the Kremlin, Putin stressed that it was still possible to find a settlement that would take into account the concerns of each side.
He said French President Emmanuel Macron may soon visit Moscow as part of renewed diplomatic efforts following their call on Monday.
Orban, who has forged close ties with Putin, putting NATO member Hungary in a unique position, underlined that no European leader wanted a war in the region and expressed hope for a settlement. .
The Hungarian leader has avoided taking a definite stance on Russian troop buildups along Ukraine’s borders and some of his opponents at home have criticized his trip to Moscow as a betrayal of Hungarian interests and Western alliances.
“Frank” phone call between the United States and Russia
In a bid to put pressure on the West, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent letters to the United States and other Western counterparts asking for explanations of past obligations signed by all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a transatlantic high security grouping.
Russia has argued that NATO’s eastward expansion has harmed Russia’s security, violating the “indivisibility of security” principle endorsed by the OSCE in 1999 and 2010.
Lavrov on Tuesday accused the United States and its allies of ignoring the principle that one nation’s security should not be enhanced at the expense of others, while insisting on the right of each nation to choose alliances, noting that he raised the issue again in a phone call. Tuesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We will insist on a frank conversation about why the West does not want to fulfill its obligations,” Lavrov said in televised remarks. “We will not allow it to be suffocated.”
Blinken, meanwhile, stressed “the willingness of the United States, bilaterally and with Allies and partners, to pursue a substantive exchange with Russia on mutual security concerns.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price noted that Blinken also “reiterated the United States’ commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the right of all countries to determine their own foreign policy and alliances”.
Blinken also “urged immediate Russian de-escalation and withdrawal of troops and equipment from Ukrainian borders,” Price said. He reaffirmed that “a new invasion of Ukraine would have rapid and serious consequences” and urged Russia to pursue a diplomatic path.
Senior State Department officials described the call as professional and “quite frank,” noting that Lavrov reiterated Russia’s insistence that it had no intention of invading the Ukraine and Blinken replied that if Putin had no real intention of invading Ukraine, Russia should withdraw its troops. .
Arrival of the British and Polish Prime Ministers in Kyiv
Senior diplomats agreed that the next step would be for Russia to submit its response to the United States and speak again. Lavrov said the Russian foreign and defense ministries are still working on his response, which will be sent to Putin for review before being forwarded to Washington.
Shortly after speaking to Lavrov, Blinken called a conference call with the NATO secretary general, EU foreign policy chief and OSCE chairman-in-office as part of efforts to ensure that the allies are engaged in new contacts with Russia. .
High-level diplomacy continued on Tuesday, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arriving in Kyiv for scheduled talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki traveled to Kyiv to show his support, promising to deliver more weapons to Ukraine, including man-portable air defense systems, drones, mortars and ammunition.
He noted that Russia’s neighbors felt like they were living “next to a volcano”.
Morawiecki criticized Germany for considering certification of the newly built Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would transport Russian natural gas to German consumers bypassing transit countries of Ukraine and Poland.
“You cannot express your solidarity with Ukraine while working on the certification of Nord Stream 2,” said the Polish Prime Minister. “By allowing the pipeline to launch, Berlin would be giving Putin a weapon he could then use to blackmail the whole of Europe.”
Zelensky said Ukraine would forge a new trilateral political alliance with Britain and Poland, hailing it as a reflection of strong international support for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president on Tuesday signed a decree expanding the country’s army by 100,000 men, bringing the total number to 350,000 over the next three years and increasing army salaries.
Zelensky, who in recent days has sought to calm the nation over fears of an impending invasion, said on Tuesday he signed “this decree not because of a war”.
“This decree is for there to be peace soon and further down the line,” the president said.
The executive order ended conscription from January 1, 2024, and outlined plans to hire 100,000 soldiers over the next three years.