The statement comes amid a standoff between the Kremlin and the West over the list of security demands Russian authorities made last year, which Moscow says are needed to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and lower tensions in Europe.
The potential delivery of US THAAD anti-ballistic missile systems to Ukraine will decrease the chances of finding a political solution to the crisis, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said, adding that Moscow urges to avoid any “stupidity” on the matter.
The diplomat stated that the Kremlin had taken American counter proposals on military drills and de-escalation seriously, but stressed that Russia wants to understand if Washington is ready for serious talks about the non-expansion of NATO. The negotiations on security guarantees depend on America’s readiness to discuss this issue, Sergei Ryabkov emphasised.
The official stated that if the White House is ready to begin substantive discussions on NATO’s non-expansion, then Moscow will accept US proposals on inspection of the alliance’s air defence bases in Romania.
Mr Ryabkov also touched on the issue of US diplomats leaving Russia, pinning the blame for the mutual reduction of embassy staff on Washington.
Security Demands and Relations With Ukraine
The statement comes amid an unprecedented escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West. Last December, the Kremlin issued a list of security demands, which Russian authorities say will defuse the crisis in Ukraine and lower tensions in Europe.
The demands include a formal veto on Ukraine joining NATO, a limit to the deployment of weapons and troops to the alliance’s eastern flank, refusal to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia’s borders, as well as return of NATO forces to where they were stationed before the so-called eastern expansion in 1997.
President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly argued that the US broke the promise on the non-expansion of the alliance it made to former Russian heads of state in the 1990s. NATO has since rejected a number of the Kremlin’s demands, including a ban on Ukraine becoming a member of the alliance, saying that it is a sovereign nation and is free to make security agreements.
Moscow and Kiev have had a strained relationship since 2014 when President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted following months of deadly protests in what the Kremlin described as a coup d’etat supported by the West.
Relations deteriorated further after Crimea became part of Russia following the holding of a public referendum in 2014, which has not been recognised by the majority of the international community.
Another thorny issue between Moscow and Kiev is the separatist movement in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, which resulted in a war between the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk and the rest of the country. Kiev has accused Russia of supporting the self-proclaimed republics, a claim that Moscow has denied.
The United States recently claimed that Russia is preparing an “invasion” of Ukraine, pointing to the large number of troops Russia has purportedly amassed in the areas close to Ukraine’s borders. Earlier this month, the White House stated that Moscow is allegedly plotting a false flag attack that it will use to justify a military campaign against its neighbour. The US did not provide evidence to corroborate its claim.
Moscow rejected the allegation and said the country is not planning any attacks, stressing that the movement was part of military exercises and it has a “sovereign right” to move troops on its own soil. The sides are now trying to hammer out their differences in a series of high-profile talks. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Russia to hold negotiations with President Putin.