In response to fears that Russia would invade Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart that the West has ignored Russia’s security concerns.
The US rejected a major Moscow demand that Nato rule out Ukraine’s membership, but said it was offering Russia a “diplomatic path.”
Russia could invade next month, according to Vice President Joe Biden. According to German intelligence, Russia is ready to attack but has not yet decided.
Russia denies that such strike is in the works.
Mr Putin, on the other hand, informed French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday that the standoff had not been resolved.
“Such key Russian concerns as preventing Nato expansion, non-deployment of strike weapons systems near Russian borders, or returning the alliance’s military potential and infrastructure in Europe to positions existing in 1997” were not addressed in the US and Nato responses, according to a Kremlin readout of the call.
It’s Mr Putin’s first response to the situation, following the United States’ rejection of Russia’s major demand. He told Mr. Macron that he would carefully consider the US counter-proposals before taking any further action.
The two leaders agreed on the need to de-escalate, according to France, and Mr Macron urged Mr Putin that Russia must respect the sovereignty of its neighbours.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to discount Vice President Joe Biden’s warning of an invasion in February.
“We don’t need worry,” he told reporters, adding that tensions were not currently rising.
Mr. Zelensky believes that Ukraine should not be the topic of an agreement between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin, but rather should be included in discussions.
He also claimed that plans by the United Kingdom and the United States to remove some embassy workers and their relatives from Ukraine were a mistake.
Meanwhile, the chief of Germany’s foreign intelligence service said Russia was ready to attack Ukraine but had not made up its mind yet.
“I don’t believe the decision to attack has been made yet,” Bruno Kahl told the news agency Reuters.
And, according to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance is prepared to beef up its presence in eastern Europe to signal its resolve.
Mr. Stoltenberg claimed that Russia was moving tens of thousands of combat-ready troops and missile systems into Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine.
Last month, Russia submitted a series of security requests to the West, including the following:
Why Ukraine should not be allowed to join NATO.
- NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe should be reduced, with troops withdrawn from Poland and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
- The alliance should not station missiles close or on Russia’s borders.
The US and Nato replied by saying Ukraine had the right to pick its own allies, but offered negotiations with Russia on missile location and other concerns.
In public, Russian leaders claim that NATO is a threat to their country’s security.
I’m not convinced. I find it difficult to imagine Moscow considers the alliance to be a danger.
Only 6% of Russia’s borders go via Nato countries; the Kremlin enjoys strong relations with several Nato members, such as Italy and Hungary, and has even sold weapons equipment to Turkey.
Furthermore, there is no indication that Ukraine, Georgia, or other former Soviet republics would be admitted to Nato in the near future.
So what is the Kremlin’s obsession with the alliance? Partly for domestic purposes, such as rallying the Russian people against an ostensible external foe.
But it may also be used as a reason to change the European security system in Moscow’s favour; to re-establish Russia’s sphere of influence and try to rewrite the Cold War’s outcomes.