Top Russian diplomat says NATO should ‘pack up’ and retreat to pre-1997 borders, restates Kremlin demand for ‘security guarantees’

9 January 2022, 08:54 PM

NATO should “pack up” and get out of the countries that joined the alliance after 1997, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kremlin-controlled news agency TASS on Jan. 9, a day before talks with the United States in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United States granted Russia the talks after Moscow demanded “security guarantees” following its threatening buildup of troops near Ukraine’s border, with many in the West and Ukraine fearing the Kremlin may plan to invade more of Ukraine.

“After having spent the last several decades trying to encircle, ‘squeeze’ and sideline Russia, NATO keeps demanding that we back down, whatever the cost to our national security may be,” Ryabkov said.

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 “It’d be clear even to a layman that this approach is no longer tenable. NATO should pack it up and beat it to their 1997 borders,” he added.

In fact, Russia shares only a tiny fraction of its enormous border with NATO countries.

The diplomat said he believes that “it’s naïve” to expect substantial progress on the topic of “security guarantees” during the upcoming talks with the United States and NATO, given those countries official positions on Russian demands.

“For starters, I’d like to hear some concrete promises of a halt to NATO’s expansion, a retraction of the resolution of the Bucharest NATO Summit 2008, and a pledge to forego any further political encroachment of the United States and NATO members around our western border. This is what matters to us, in stark contrast with the declared priorities of the United States,” Ryabkov told TASS.

An indication that the United States and NATO are willing to discuss these Russian priorities would be a positive outcome of the talks, the diplomat said.

Ryabkov said NATO should unilaterally rule out admitting any new members and dismantle existing military infrastructure.

“So these kinds of promises, political guarantees, all this hot air hardly means anything.” He said. “We’re being told the Unites States has no intention of deploying offensive weapon systems in Ukraine. But could such intentions materialize in the future? Is Washington prepared to put all this into writing and ratify it?”

Ryabkov said any arrangements between Russia and the Unites States or NATO have to be legally binding, however difficult it might be to convince all member states to ratify them:

“It’s their (NATO’s) problem of how to sell these guarantees to their members, how to ratify them. But such guarantees are essential.”

On Dec. 17, Russia issued demands they called “security guarantees” from the United States and NATO, including that Ukraine be forbidden from ever becoming a member of the alliance; all against the backdrop of a continuous build-up of Russian troops along their border with Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “any kind of talks with Moscow must be underpinned by the key principles of European security, clearly express our concern with Russia’s behavior, and … be done in concord with our European partners, namely Ukraine.”

White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the United States will not make any concessions or even discuss them without their European allies. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed similar statements about their unwillingness to compromise on their stated demands.

Bilateral talks between the United States and Russia to discuss these so-called “security guarantees” are scheduled to take place in Geneva on Jan. 10, followed by a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Jan. 12.

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