Dec 17, 2021 - World

U.S. to consider Russia's NATO proposal, but calls some demands "unacceptable"

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Russian government released the draft of a new treaty proposal with NATO that would rule out eastward expansion and all military activity in former Soviet republics, as the threat of another Russian invasion of Ukraine looms over Europe.

Driving the news: A senior Biden administration official told reporters on Friday that the U.S. is prepared to discuss Russia's proposals with its allies, but said that "there are some things in those documents that the Russians know will be unacceptable."

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has previously condemned similar demands by Russia, insisting that Moscow "has no veto" over whether Ukraine or any other sovereign nation joins the alliance.
  • The senior Biden official said that the U.S. would return to Russia with a more "concrete proposal" next week, once it has time to consult with its allies.
  • The official stressed that there would be no new agreements on European security "without Europeans in the room."

Why it matters: The U.S. and its European allies have warned of massive consequences if Russia proceeds with an invasion, but have signaled they are open to security negotiations with Moscow as a way to de-escalate a potentially devastating conflict.

Details: Russia's demands, which experts characterized as maximalist and unlikely to be accepted, include the following legal commitments from the U.S and NATO:

  • No eastward expansion of NATO.
  • No military cooperation with former Soviet states, including Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia.
  • Withdrawal of forces to positions NATO occupied in 1997, before the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia were members
  • No deploying armed forces, heavy bombers, surface warships, or intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles outside of NATO territory.

Between the lines: The U.S. and other NATO allies have increased their military presence and activities in the alliance's "eastern flank" since Russia's previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and the Biden administration has warned that will only increase if Russia invaded again. 

The big picture: With more than 100,000 Russian troops massed on the border, the Ukrainian government is urgently lobbying for additional military assistance and preemptive sanctions from the U.S. to deter an invasion.

  • An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios that the U.S. has still not fulfilled a request for defensive military assistance submitted in early November, likely out of concerns that it could provoke Russia.
  • The senior Biden official did not address the new request, but said the U.S. has provided more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine this year.

Go deeper: Inside Biden's call with Ukrainian President Zelensky

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