MOSCOW, 23 Dec 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
The international information background does not subside after the publication by the Russian Foreign Ministry of draft treaties with the United States and NATO on security guarantees. Many experts noted that this is an ultimatum to the United States and NATO. At the same time, if we look into the comments to these documents from the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Ryabkov, the picture looks different. However it illustrates the change in the world order no less dramatically.
To begin with, it is worth recalling that Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the expanded board of the Foreign Ministry on November 18, instructed diplomats to start negotiations with representatives of the West on the creation of a system of security guarantees. Although those present were wearing masks, the President noted skepticism on the faces of the Foreign Ministry employees, since earlier there had been a violation of previously reached agreements by the West. Nevertheless, the President said that this should be done in order to avoid unexpected incidents.
On December 7, negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden took place via videoconference, which was held in the context of the Geneva meeting held this summer.
In the previous article, it was noted that the White House and the US State Department have different approaches for building Russian-American relations. Thus, during the hearing in the US Senate, Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told congressmen that Russia’s demands to remove NATO troops from Russia’s western borders, exclude Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO and stop arming Ukraine are unequivocally unacceptable.
On the same day, at a press conference at the White House, the US President’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the US and its European allies are ready to participate in the discussion of security problems expressed by Russia.
On December 8, Biden said that the United States and some of its NATO allies could hold a meeting with Russia aimed at de-escalating tensions around Ukraine, where they would address the concerns of the Russian president about NATO actions.
However, on December 9, State Department spokesman Ned Price disavowed the possibility of such negotiations, and on December 12, the head of the State Department Antony Blinken said that a new meeting of the leaders of the United States and Russia is not advisable until the Russian president withdraws troops from the border with Ukraine.
However, on December 15, information appeared that Biden was planning a new meeting with Putin. Thus, there were divergent signals from the USA to Russia.
On December 17, at a briefing at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov explained that during the talks on December 7, the US president expressed readiness to establish a dialogue on ensuring the security of our countries.
In the interests of starting the negotiation process to develop legal guarantees not to advance NATO to the east and the deployment of threatening weapons systems in close proximity to the territory of Russia, the Russian side prepared two draft international agreements, which were handed over on December 15 to US Deputy Secretary of State Karen Donfried during her visit to Moscow.
These are drafts of the Treaty between Russia and the United States on security guarantees and the Agreement on measures to ensure the security of Russia and NATO member states. Ryabkov stressed that the line of behaviour of the United States and NATO aimed at escalation in the security sphere over the past few years is no longer acceptable and extremely dangerous.
Therefore, within the framework of the agreements, it is proposed to cancel the obligations of Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO and refuse to accept post-Soviet countries into the alliance. In addition, the United States and NATO must commit themselves not to deploy additional military and weapons outside the countries in which they were in May 1997 (before joining the alliance of Eastern European countries). The United States is offered to not deploy medium-range and shorter-range missiles at places from which they can hit the territory of the other party to the Treaty.
NATO needs to abandon any military activity in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, Central Asia. NATO and Russia agree not to deploy weapons and forces in areas where it will be perceived by the other side as a threat to national security, not to deploy nuclear weapons abroad and return those already deployed, as well as to eliminate the infrastructure for deploying nuclear weapons outside their territory, as well as other measures.
Ryabkov noted that security in the modern world can be achieved only within the framework of international law and the Russian initiative has a powerful potential for the formation of European security.
In order to understand that Ryabkov’s statement is not an ultimatum in any form, it is enough to look at the mood with which he was preparing for his speech. His extremely positive mood before the start of the appeal can be observed on the broadcast on the Komsomolskaya Pravda channel. Ryabkov’s answers to the questions of journalists stunned by Russian proposals are also characteristic, and, judging by them, the United States and NATO really need to sacrifice their principles.
Answering questions, Ryabkov noted that Russia is no longer ready to put up with the flow of ultimatums, it’s time for NATO to abandon its own cliches and old behavioural models. Now the choice in improving relations is for NATO and, above all, the United States. If the United States is unable to decide on Russia’s proposals on its own, let them consult with their allies, and from this it will be clear which of the allies forms the US negotiating position.
In response to questions from a Bloomberg journalist, Ryabkov confirmed that NATO needs to return its military forces to the 1997 position. When answering a question from a Kommersant journalist who stated that Russian demands were unacceptable, Ryabkov explained that the current situation in Eurasia is radically different from what it was before, that no previous standards are applicable.
“Our colleagues from the other side should abandon the past, look at everything in a new way and start, if you want, writing our relations from scratch, using what we put on paper, transmitted and published today, not even as a starting point, but as a platform and basis for a future agreement”, Ryabkov said. It’s NATO who has previously made unacceptable demands to Russia.
Giving an answer to a BBC journalist who stated about Russia’s attempt to revise the results of the Cold War, Ryabkov made a statement that is central to the entire speech:
“This is not a revision of the results of the Cold War, because there is no return to the past and there cannot be. I would say that this is a revision of the expansion against Russia’s interests that the collective West has carried out in various formats, using different resources and partners, for purposes hostile to Russia in recent years. We propose to really come to agreement on the platform of our documents so that the situation calms down. The choice is for NATO and, above all, for the United States.”
The reaction of the American side to the Russian proposals is interesting. White House press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the US authorities have seen Russia’s proposals for negotiations, Washington is discussing them with its partners in Europe and that without the latter, security negotiations are impossible.
”We will not compromise with the key principles on which European security is built, including the fact that all countries have the right to independently determine their future and foreign policy without outside interference,” Psaki explained. It’s as if European countries, especially Eastern European limitrophes, are implementing their policies without such interference from the United States.
Assistant to the US President for National Security Sullivan said that the US is ready for dialogue with Russia: “We have had dialogue with Russia on European security in the last 20 years. We can make progress in some areas. And we’ll just have to disagree in other areas. This is the essence of the dialogue.
Our strategy, in a fundamental sense, will be to closely coordinate (actions) with allies, ensure unity, and then be ready to sit down (at the negotiating table) with Russia and respond positively to the idea that we can discuss in the appropriate format.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the alliance had also received Russia’s security proposals. He pointed out that the dialogue should take into account the concerns of NATO and the opinion of Ukraine. Russia should de-escalate tensions around Ukraine as a “necessary precondition” for the start of any negotiations, said NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană.
A high-ranking representative of the Washington administration said at a special briefing on December 17: “As we said, we are ready to discuss them (Russian proposals), but there are some points in these documents that, as the Russian Federation knows, will be unacceptable. But there are other elements that we are ready to work with that deserve discussion.”
“Unlike the Russian Federation, we do not see any advantages in conducting these negotiations publicly: neither those that we are conducting with our allies and partners, nor those that we will conduct with Russia. We believe that if there is a chance that diplomacy will work, then it should be done on a confidential basis,” the administration representative said.
On December 18 Ryabkov separately explained: “We offer negotiations on a bilateral basis with the United States. If we involve other countries in them, we will simply drown it all in debates and verbiage.” At the same time, according to the deputy minister, before there has never been such a situation in relations with the United States as it is now. “I hope that the Americans do not underestimate how much everything has changed, and not for the better,” Ryabkov pointed out. “And so far, unfortunately, there are no signs that they are ready to abandon their own patterns.”
Summarising the above, firstly, it is worth noting that Russia has restored its level of subjectivity in the international arena to the level that it is able to reconsider the issue of international security on its own terms. This has already been noted by experts. Secondly, Russia’s proposals, which the US State Department previously called unequivocally unacceptable, are still being taken up by the White House for consideration.
Given that the Biden administration itself initiated the negotiation process with the Russian side in the context of shifting its interests to Asia in connection with the confrontation with China, we can only guess what proposals were made by the United States to Russia in order to exclude a confrontation on two fronts for the United States. And experts also wrote about this – back in November of this year.
High-ranking American officials have been visiting Moscow frequently. The November visit of CIA Director William Burns was at that time already the fourth visit of a senior member of the White House administration since the Geneva meeting.
It is not difficult to guess that the purpose of the CIA director’s personal visit was not at all to make demands on Ukraine, as the Western media tried to present it, but some kind of request or attempt to find a compromise. In the face of the fall of international prestige due to the unsuccessful withdrawal from Afghanistan, the White House was even more interested in agreements with the Kremlin.
Thus, the current Russian proposals are not an ultimatum, but a clear statement that the possibilities for such a tone of conversation with the White House about possible security schemes for Russia, Europe and the United States have been formed. This opportunity will fix what the Biden administration is really ready to do in order for Russia to commit itself not to aggravate the situation at an inappropriate moment for the United States.
That is why the White House cannot brush aside Russia’s, at first glance, unacceptable proposals and does not want publicity for the further negotiation process. Let’s agree, in such circumstances, Russia has a reason to raise the stakes to a height unprecedented since the Caribbean crisis.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is fully aware that the White House may not be able to cope with its obligations, and therefore there is a separate draft treaty for NATO countries. On December 18, the Russian Foreign Ministry sent more specific signals to NATO countries:
“We are just making it clear that we are ready to talk about transferring a military scenario or a military-technical scenario into a political process that will really strengthen military security… of all states in the OSCE, Euro-Atlantic, and Eurasian space. And if this will not work, then we have already warned them (NATO), then we will also switch to this mode of creating counter-threats, but then it will be too late to ask us why we made such decisions, why we deployed such systems,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko.
“In this case, we have stated everything very honestly, openly and on paper. And, by the way, it is also very important from a political point of view to throw a stone into this swamp. It is necessary for the Europeans to think, finally, if they do not want to turn their continent into an arena of such a military confrontation,” Grushko added. “They have two ways. Either to take seriously what we have put on the table, or deal with a military-technical alternative,” he explained.
Of course, the possibility of the United States to reverse the position of NATO countries in relation to Russia is highly doubtful, since this will require changing the ideology of security, which was based on the confrontation with Russia and dominated Europe for more than 70 years. However, as Ryabkov noted, the world has changed a lot, and it is high time for the West to abandon the old patterns of behaviour, because the decrepit star-striped empire, weakened by LGBT, BLM, and so on, will clearly not stand a war on two fronts.
Returning to the context of global expert assessments, it is worth noting the following: Zbigniew Brzezinski once noted that the future world will be built on the wreckage of Russia and at the expense of Russia. Putin’s message says that the world on the wreckage of Russia and at the expense of Russia is over. A new era is coming – the Revival of Russia. And the West will have to reckon with this.