By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The top Republican on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the security proposals that Moscow has put forth in response to Western alarm over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine are a clear sign that Russia is “trying to create a pretext for war.”
U.S. Senator Jim Risch (Republican-Idaho) said in a statement on December 18 that Russia’s proposals are not security agreements, but a list of concessions the United States and NATO must make to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The proposals, laid out on December 17 by the Russian Foreign Ministry, call for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and limitations on the alliance’s military activity in Eastern Europe, including cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia.
“The Russian Federation made these demands with the full understanding they are impossible to accept,” Risch said. “Putin knows the United States and our 29 NATO allies do not, and will not, negotiate away the future of sovereign nations, like Ukraine, that must be able to make their own choices.”
Risch urges the Biden administration and all NATO allies to reject the demands but said the alliance should be prepared for Putin to use the rejection as an excuse for using military force. He also called on Congress and the administration to act before Russia escalates further.
Russia currently has about 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine in what the United States says could be preparations for an invasion.
The proposals, which would roll back many of the security advances NATO has made in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states since the late 1990s, come as tensions between Washington and the Kremlin reach a post-Cold War high amid Moscow’s attempts to carve out a sphere of influence in its near abroad.
A senior U.S. administration official on December 17 called some of the proposals “unacceptable” but said other aspects “merit some discussion.”
The official said the United States would consult with its allies and partners, including Ukraine, about the proposals before responding to Russia next week.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called Washington and NATO’s response to the security proposals discouraging and said he did not consider them unacceptable.
Ryabkov told the TASS news agency on December 18 that the aim is to hold talks exclusively with Washington.
Ryabkov expressed hope that the United States would enter into negotiations, saying the issue “is critically important for maintaining peace and stability.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Russia has made clear it is “ready to talk about switching over from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process.”
Speaking on December 18, Grushko said if that doesn’t work out, Russia has signaled to NATO that it would “move over to creating counterthreats, but it will then be too late to ask us why we made these decisions and why we deployed these systems.”
Moscow and Kyiv have been at odds since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and began providing military, political, and economic support to separatist formations in parts of eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies direct involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine despite compelling evidence to the contrary.