The Russian dilemma on Ukraine’s border

By Celine Aemisegger

Moscow, Jan 16 (EFE).- Stalled United States-NATO talks with Russia have left the Kremlin with two options: to lower tensions on its border with Ukraine or to ramp up its military presence.

“Russia will resort to firm military measures to show toughness and show the US and NATO that it is serious” Dmitri Suslov, Deputy Director at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies told Efe.

After an intense week of crunch talks with the US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia’s wish-list of security demands, which included the request that NATO would not expand eastwards, was rejected.

Russia wants NATO to ban Ukraine and other former Soviet-nations from joining the defense alliance and has demanded the immediate cessation of NATO troops deployed along its border.

Neither the US nor NATO was willing to make concessions on Russia’s demands, but, according to Suslov, the US has been “flexible” when dealing with Moscow over the use of conventional and unconventional weapons and the non-deployment of missiles.

“What they offer Russia is a kind of Secure Act 2.0 (between Russia and the Atlantic Alliance of 1997), a hypothetical agreement on technical-military issues, but without changing the fundamental principles that guide the US and NATO in Europe,” the expert added.

The US, NATO and Russia all seem willing to reinstate some form of arms control agreement like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which forced both parties to eliminate stocks of mid-range nuclear-tipped missiles.

But Russia has made it clear that its demands are not a “menu” but a package and expects a written response from the US by next week, Suslov continued.

The heated talks took place amid a military showdown on the Ukraine-Russia border.

Some 100,000 soldiers have been deployed on the Russian side of the border.

The US has warned the move comes as “a pretext” to attack the neighboring country this winter.

Despite demands from Washington and Brussels for Moscow to help lower the tensions, the Kremlin has stepped up its belligerent rhetoric and remained bullish over its contentious list of security grantees.

Moscow has warned that in the event of a resounding “no” in writing from the US and NATO, it could resort to a military response.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clarified that it would be “deployment of weapons”, but all will hinge on what advice military experts give President Vladimir Putin.

“The gap in perceptions is so broad that a new and dangerous escalation could be necessary to make the parties open up their imagination and search for agreements,” Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said in a statement.

According to Suslov, a full-blown military response against Ukraine was unlikely.

“It would be useless and counterproductive,” he added.

“The US and NATO would only agree to a closed-door policy if the cost of open doors becomes too expensive for them,” Suslov added.

One way Russia could pile on the pressure would be to seek “ways to undermine the security of the US and NATO” through more robust military exercises including the deployment of missiles, more frequent flights and nuclear submarines.

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