Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that he would consider a number of options if the West did not follow through on its push for security guarantees that impede NATO expansion into Ukraine.
Putin’s security demands are the latest in a series of forceful statements amid tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks that has fueled Western fears of a possible invasion of Russia’s western neighbor.
Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries and reverse their military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
Putin has urged the West to act swiftly to meet the demands, warning that Moscow will have to take “appropriate military-technical measures” if the West continues its “aggressive” course “on our doorstep.”
When asked to specify what Moscow’s response might be, he said in comments broadcast on Russian state television on Sunday that it “could be diverse,” adding without elaborating that “it will depend on the proposals that our military experts present to me. “.
The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing the NATO principle that membership is open to any qualified country.
However, they agreed to start security talks with Russia next month to discuss their concerns.
Putin said talks with the United States will take place in Geneva. In parallel, negotiations are also planned between Russia and NATO, and broader discussions are expected under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In remarks broadcast Sunday, Putin said Russia filed the demands in hopes of a constructive response from the West.
“We did it not just to see it blocked … but for the purpose of reaching a negotiated diplomatic outcome that would be set in legally binding documents,” Putin said.
He reaffirmed that Ukraine’s membership in NATO or the alliance’s weapons deployment is a red line for Moscow that would not allow the West to cross.
“We have nowhere to retreat,” he said, adding that NATO could deploy missiles in Ukraine that would take only four or five minutes to reach Moscow.
“They have pushed us into a line that we cannot cross. They have brought it to the point where we just have to tell them; ‘Stop!'”
He expressed concern that the United States and its allies may try to prolong the security talks and use them as cover to pursue a military rally near Russia.
He noted that Russia published its security demands to make them known to the public and to increase pressure on the United States and its allies to negotiate a security agreement.
“We have only one goal: to reach agreements that guarantee the security of Russia and its citizens now and in a long-term perspective,” he said.
US President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call earlier this month that Russia will face “dire consequences” if it attacks Ukraine.
Russia has denied any intention to launch an invasion and, in turn, accused Ukraine of hatching plans to try to regain control of the territories held by Moscow-backed rebels by force. Ukraine has rejected the claim.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in 2014 and shortly after gave its support to a separatist rebellion in the east of the country.
For more than seven years, the fighting has killed more than 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism