ER Editor: UPDATE – See Let’s make a deal. Putin gives NATO way out of Ukraine mess. And this from RT – Putin calls on NATO to do a deal. Of note (RT article):
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will request talks with NATO to ensure that the US-led military bloc does not creep closer to his country’s borders, as Kiev moves to allow Western troops into Ukraine.
Speaking to a group of newly-arrived ambassadors in the Kremlin on Wednesday, Putin said that his country will “insist on guarantees being set out to exclude the possibility of NATO moving any further to the east, and deploying threatening weapons close to Russian territory.”
“I would like to emphasize that we need these to be legal guarantees,” the Russian president said, “given that our Western colleagues have not fulfilled their respective oral obligations. Everyone knows they made promises they wouldn’t expand eastwards, but then they did the opposite. Legitimate Russian security concerns have been ignored and continue to be ignored.”
Putin insisted that “the threat at our Western borders is really growing, and we have repeatedly talked about it. It is enough to see how close NATO’s military infrastructure has advanced to the Russian borders. It’s more than serious for us.”
Mercouris (video commentary) is saying this is a very important speech as it’s the first time the Russians have come out clearly and MADE DEMANDS of the West. Now Putin’s on the offensive, requiring NATO forces be pulled away from Russia’s border. NATO via the arrogant neocon Stoltenberg is not likely to agree to this at this time. However, it is a momentous event and a tipping point. Is a war in Ukraine thus likely, as a response by NATO? (Mercouris and Christoforou go on to consider the highly difficult situation Ukraine is in.)
See this article by Daniel Larison on Jens Stoltenberg’s inflammatory position toward Russia: NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg needs to calm it down.
See Mercouris’ first analysis below, which gives further background.
Alexander Mercouris gives his analysis of the recent speech of Putin, demanding a treaty be arranged in terms of guaranteeing NATO expands no further into eastern Europe, and the west’s response via Blinken’s threat of further sanctions and Jens Stoltenberg’s ‘demented’ response to Putin’s demand.
This is the article Mercouris’ video links to from the Kremlin website: Ceremony for presenting foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence.
What we know so far: the Ukrainian military is demoralized on the Donbass frontline. It needs the help of NATO. In the event of a war with Russia on Ukraine’s border, no help would be forthcoming from NATO to Ukraine according to Jens Stoltenberg. (Ukraine is not a NATO member.) So the only response to Russia would be further economic sanctions. This has been confirmed by US Secretary of State Blinken’s response. Mercouris: the only way a war could happen is if Russia attacks Ukraine in the Donbass region. Otherwise, Ukraine is on its own and will lose. Such are the comments made by the western powers.
But Putin has commented on the situation along the western border of Russia in a speech made at the Kremlin. (Mercouris reads it out.) During this speech, Putin recalls the encroachment of NATO toward Russia and demands a treaty to limit eastward expansion of NATO. In response, Stoltenberg (Mercouris reads this) says that Russia has no right to control its neighbours and establish a sphere of influence where NATO cannot go legally. Mercouris: this is not what Putin said. The neocon/Atlanticist mindset is that everything is a zero-sum game. ‘If we don’t move in, somebody will do so in our place.’ It is a misinterpretation of Putin’s position. Stoltenberg also effectively said that Russia has no business protecting its own security.
Putin’s statements on eastward expansion show increasing confidence on Russia’s part. The Russians feel that events are moving increasingly in their favor and that they’ll be able to force the western powers to take Russia’s security concerns into account. There are 3 reasons for this:
1. Russia’s military power has massively increased since the 1990’s. We see evidence of this with NATO not threatening to intervene on Ukraine’s behalf in the event of a Russia-Ukraine war. So the military balance in eastern Europe is in Russia’s favour.
2. The geostrategic balance is shifting, also, as China as a global superpower is on its side. This gives Russia leverage over the West.
3. In terms of sanctions, Russia is feeling increasingly confident in economic terms. Any US/western economic sanctions would necessarily be very limited. Sanctions on energy or food exports from Russia would have severe repercussions on global economies. It’s a step too far. They no doubt would impose restrictions on other exports and limit investment in Russia. But the West overestimates the effect of these. Russia’s economy would readjust quickly, and has a new partner in China, which could easily pick up the slack. Sanctions on sovereign debt have already been talked about this year; Russia and the financial markets simply shrugged their shoulders over this. Russia can finance its needs within the Russian financial markets that it couldn’t back in 2014. Russia might have a period of adjustment, but it would overcome. Punishment by way of cutting off Russia from the SWIFT payments system wouldn’t work as Russia has already overcome this problem by setting up its own international payments system, which is ready to begin operation. Russia might have a difficult year or so, but it would recover; meanwhile, Russian banks could still transfer monies among themselves and to places like China. None of these sanctions would have the effect on Russia they would hope for.
The takeaway message is that we’re moving into an entirely different diplomatic landscape. Up to now, in terms of Europe, Russia has been responding to western moves such as expanding NATO easterward; the forcible change of govt in Ukraine; and the events in Crimea and the Donbass. For the first time since the end of the cold war, it is Russia who is making demands of the West. They are demanding NATO guarantees that expansion eastward must stop, especially into Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc. There must be a treaty signed by the western powers that that won’t happen. They also want a treaty restricting deployment of western military systems close to Russia’s borders. They have never made this kind of demand before, which is completely new and speaks of major growth in Russian self-confidence in economic, geopolitical, diplomatic and military terms. The balance of power is beginning to tilt in their favour.
Likely nobody in Russia thinks the chaotic Biden administration is going to come around. Stoltenberg’s ridiculous reaction is both utopian, arrogant and somewhat demented. Russia is prepared to wait in relation to Ukraine and with NATO. Putin’s speech on this is going to become one of the most important ones in the post-Cold War era. He declared what Russia’s strategy is going to be, which is to maintain a strategy of tension in eastern Europe. They’ll move troops around, they’ll carry out exercises in the region and build up their military forces, as well as develop economic links with the Donbass region and offer them Russian citizenship. Time is on Russia’s side, to wait it out and get earnest negotiations and guarantees from the West.
Russia’s demand to stop NATO expansion in eastern Europe and secure a treaty will one day become a threat. We’re not close to that point yet but if western powers don’t agree to negotiate in good faith, the ultimatum may well come.
Putin Sets Out Russia’s Demands: No Further NATO Expansion, Demands “Legal Binding Security Guarantees”
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