Russia calls on NATO to back off

December 24, 2021 - 17:53

TEHRAN - The Russian Embassy in Washington has denounced a statement by the U.S. State Department on the escalating military activities by NATO near Russia’s eastern borders, especially Ukraine. The statement has urged the U.S. not to shift the blame on Moscow and to avoid distorting the reality on the ground.

The Russian diplomatic mission wrote “for the sake of de-escalation, the United States should not create anti-Russian military sites near our borders, In particular, Washington shall undertake to prevent the further eastward expansion of NATO, deny accession to the Alliance to the States of the former USSR, not use their infrastructure for any military activities, and not develop bilateral military cooperation with them"

Earlier, the U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, claimed that "Russia and its proxies are responsible for escalating tensions, not Ukraine or the United States." He called on Moscow "to stop using false, inflammatory rhetoric and take meaningful steps to de-escalate tensions to provide a positive atmosphere for discussions."

The U.S. State Department issued the statement after Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu touched on the situation in Ukraine during a ministerial board meeting on Tuesday where he said the presence of over 120 personnel belonging to American private military companies had been spotted at two sites in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. Shoigu says they were equipping firing points in residential buildings and socially significant facilities, training the Ukrainian military, and carrying out other activities. He also said that containers with unidentified chemical components had been delivered near the Russian border to stage provocations in the latest deployment of Western weapons.

Meanwhile, addressing high-ranking Russian military officers, Putin has outlined where his country’s defense priorities are. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO and the United States against the further deployment of heavy weapons in neighboring Ukraine. He says the weapons are reaching Russian borders and Moscow has nowhere to retreat to; before questioning “Do they think we'll just watch idly?” Putin has warned NATO’s “unfriendly” eastward expansion “steps” will reach a point where Russia will be forced to respond. 

He pointed out that Moscow needs guarantees from Washington that rule out any potential intrusion on Russian borders, he says these guarantees must be “long-term” and they must be “legally binding.”

Assurances by the United States are not enough anymore for Russia.

Putin says that even if the U.S. were to offer assurances that rule out any further NATO expansion, it would be difficult to trust any American officials sticking to their words, given what he labeled as Washington’s track record. He cited examples such as America pulling out of international treaties once it was no longer “interested” in respecting them. Putin pointed to the Open Skies Treaty, which Washington unilaterally withdrew from last year. The agreement was highly praised by the international community as it provided transparency about the movement and deployment of each country’s nuclear weapons. He also noted America’s decision to leave the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, an agreement clinched in 1972, designed to limit the scale of prospective missile defense systems. He says Washington simply cannot be trusted anymore to honor its promises.

The Kremlin has already sent out two documents, one for NATO and the other for the U.S. which laid out a wide range of assurances aimed at strengthening the security of all parties involved in the escalation of tensions. The proposals focus on the movement of military personnel and hardware. Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sounded the alarm by expressing Moscow’s concern over a significant number of the bloc’s weapons, including American and British hardware, being moved closer to Russia. The top diplomat warned that this could lead to an all-out provocation.

The Russian President has warned about the possibility of advanced NATO military hardware being deployed to Ukraine, saying that if Western missile systems are stationed on Ukrainian territory, “their flight time to Moscow will be reduced to 7-10 minutes, and if hypersonic weapons are deployed – to just five [minutes].” 

The build-up of troops and weapons in Ukraine has been a bone of contention between Russia and NATO. Moscow accuses the North Atlantic Alliance of planning to send intermediate-range nuclear missiles to Kiev. This month, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemned Washington’s broken pledges, arguing that “since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been repeatedly assured that NATO’s jurisdiction and military forces will not move an inch eastwards.” However, she says “all these promises have been forgotten and not fulfilled. The result is the current sad state of European security.” 

There is heightened concern over advanced American weapons systems being delivered to Kiev such as American-made Javelin rocket launchers being tested and handed to forces in the war-torn Donbas region. Russia says NATO is also planning to send intermediate-range nuclear missiles to Ukraine.

Following Putin’s speech, Shoigu also spoke and revealed that Russia’s new high-tech hypersonic missile, capable of flying through the air at around nine times the speed of sound, has finished testing and will begin shipping to the military in 2022. He also noted Moscow will be investing $3.5 billion into upgrading the arsenal in the coming years saying “by 2026, the number of carriers of high-precision, long-range weapons will grow by 30%, and the supply of cruise missiles of various types will double.” Shoigu also says that U.S. private military firms are preparing a chemical weapons “provocation” in eastern Ukraine. He claimed that containers with “unidentified chemical components” have been delivered to two cities in the Donbas region.

Last month, Putin highlighted the importance of developing and implementing technology “necessary to create new hypersonic weapons systems, high-powered lasers and robotic systems that will be able to effectively counter potential military threats, which means they will further strengthen the security of our country.”

Tensions have been escalating in the east of Ukraine for several months, with Western officials accusing Russian forces of building up their presence near the demarcation line. Western officials claim Moscow has plans to invade its neighbor. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegations as baseless, saying it has taken steps to beef up its defensive positions in the face of NATO’s growing military presence near Russia’s eastern borders. The Kremlin says Western accusations of a Russian “invasion” are growing anti-Russian “hysteria.” Moscow has also accused the West of encouraging Ukraine to provoke Russia and trigger a military conflict in Donbas.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned that “if the West cannot hold back Ukraine - and actually encourages it – of course, we will take all necessary steps to ensure our security.” He has also told Russian media that Moscow and Washington will hold the first round of talks on Security Guarantees in January saying “It was agreed that at the very beginning of next year, the first round would be a bilateral contact between Russia’s and U.S.’ negotiators, they have already been named, they are acceptable for both sides.”

According to the top Russian diplomat, the reaction of his American colleagues to the Russian proposals was "business-like."

Analysts say the United States has shown a tendency to scare-monger the neighbors of superpowers in regions well beyond U.S. borders. Among some of the reasons they cite, is America’s economic decline as well as its declining image around the world following military interventions that ended up embarrassingly badly for Washington. The scare-mongering is to maintain America's position as a reliable security partner against a threat (which in reality does not exist) and to keep the American military-industrial complex continuing to function. Essentially critics argue; America’s existence is based on wars and threats and escalating military tensions around the world threats and escalating military tensions around the world.