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Russia wants a treaty with NATO on eastern enlargement
by Michael Maier
Sunday Dec 12th, 2021 3:33 AM
There is now a need for "a treaty that prevents NATO from standing on the Russian border:" "We need to start negotiations on the new NATO expansion plans." Conceding such a "red line" to the Russians has so far been rejected by NATO

Warning from Russia: "We are sliding into war".
by Michael Maier
[This article published on Dec 5, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Russia wants a treaty with NATO on eastern enlargement. If this does not come, Moscow sees a real danger of war in Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin plan to hold a video summit on Tuesday, according to Kremlin sources. The conversation is scheduled for the evening (Moscow local time), Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced Saturday. The duration of the exchange will be determined by the presidents themselves, Peskov said, according to Russian news agencies. The summit between the two presidents is expected to help ease tensions in the Ukraine crisis. Moscow has criticized NATO's massive presence in Ukraine, while Washington has warned that the Russians are deploying troops on the Ukrainian border. . At a meeting of foreign ministers in Stockholm, Anthony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov spoke about the crisis.

The situation is serious this time. Russia is demanding a treaty agreement with the United States, as Putin told senior Russian Foreign Ministry diplomats on Nov. 18. Putin said that NATO's expansion into Poland and Romania had taken place even though Russia had already expressed its concerns at the time. At that time, however, he said, there was still a climate of partnership between the West and Russia. This is different today, he said, which is why Russia must insist on clear contractual agreements with the West in order to avoid a military confrontation.

Andrey Sushentsov, dean of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and program director of the Valdai Club and one of Moscow's leading political experts of the younger generation, tells the Berliner Zeitung: "After World War II, the Allies developed a clear concept of Germany's role in Europe. The situation was very well prepared in cooperation between Russia and the West. After the end of the USSR, many new states emerged and there was no such system." Russia, he said, is therefore calling for a "legal framework with a binding obligation for the West not to extend NATO further to the Russian border."

Explaining the background to the current relationship between the former Cold War adversaries, Sushentsov said that in 2003 and 2004, Putin had discussed the relationship with then-President George W. Bush: "Bush said that the two nations were not enemies and that the United States would not attack Russia. He said that the future relationship should be that Russia can do what it wants and that the U.S. will do what it wants, too." This loose relationship, however, did not prove stable, according to Sushentsov. Therefore, he said, there is now a need for "a treaty that prevents NATO from standing on the Russian border:" "We need to start negotiations on the new NATO expansion plans." Conceding such a "red line" to the Russians has so far been rejected by NATO. For Sushentsov, negotiations must still take place, he said, "It is not a solution for NATO to say that we do not accept red lines from Russia. Nato must take up the grievances with Russia. Either this is done through negotiations and eventually through a legal framework, or there is a risk that we will accidentally end up in a military confrontation.

Part of such a treaty must be a mechanism to prevent us from inadvertently getting into a war." The basis for the Russians' urging, he said, was their concern "about the new NATO doctrine, which says that NATO can defend its security outside the territory of member states." Therefore, "the deployment and activities of NATO and U.S. troops in Ukraine are a big issue for us," he said. This, he said, is "like the Russian fleet establishing a presence near the UK." Sushentsov: "We cannot accept this."

The Russian expert sees the situation as critical: "We are approaching open conflict. We are sliding into war. Russia does not want this war. The U.S. underestimates how seriously Russia takes the situation." For Russia, "there is no political gain in starting a war," he said, "If we are not provoked, we will not do anything militarily. Russia is not planning to attack Donbass." So far, he said, little response has been received from the United States. Sushentsov: "What we are saying to the U.S. is: please talk to us, we have a stress situation here. We are on the brink of a major war." Moscow currently sees itself unable to back down. Addressing Ukraine, Sushentsov says, "If you start a war, we will stop it."

The central problem from Russia's point of view is a military-political power vacuum in Europe. Sushentsov: "European security depends on two poles: On the one hand, on the U.S. and NATO, and on the other, on Russia. Germany and France don't play a big role in the European security structure because the U.S. and NATO are leading."

In contrast, he said, "Turkey has emerged as a new ambitious power with a lot of military capacity." Turkey wants to regain its status as a military power and is an independent player, he said. For Sushentsov, Ankara is an interesting partner: "We had 13 wars with Turkey and we settled the conflicts with them 13 times. We can deal with Turkey."

The problem for Germany is the loss of military importance. Behind closed doors, Germany is no longer considered a major player because of the state of its armed forces - unlike Turkey, which has kept its forces in combat mode for years, training and improving them in war operations. Germany, on the other hand, can only say to "Ukraine: please stop it," Sushentsov said. Germany has no way to enforce anything either, he said.

Russia has long pointed out the problem of this vacuum, Sushentsov says: "At present, we have no common security system in which Russia could participate. Ukraine decided to join NATO, and the U.S. promised security. This poses an immediate threat to Russia." Russia is constantly making proposals "for a legal framework that can prevent wars," he said. Those proposals are now likely to be on the table at Biden's summit with Putin.
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