Thursday, May 26, 2022

US, NATO did not agree to Russia’s demands for Ukraine

A Russian Army service member fires a howitzer during an exercise at the Kuzminsky Range in Russia’s southern Rostov region on January 26.Sergei Pivovarov/Reuters

The United States and NATO have sent written responses to Russia’s security demands, saying they will make no concessions when it comes to Ukraine’s potential future in the Western Alliance.

Russia has demanded a guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the 30-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow, which published its position last month, has also called on NATO to withdraw troops and weapons from Eastern Europe.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine’s sovereign right on “no change, no change” on core principles such as the right to membership in whatever coalition it chooses. However, he added that the documents submitted to the Russian Foreign Ministry “set down a serious diplomatic path, if Russia chooses it.” Mr Blinken suggested that the two sides could work towards arms control agreements as a way of de-escalating the escalating tensions between Russia and the West.

“It is up to Russia how to react. We are ready by any means,” he told reporters on Wednesday. He said that the decision was taken not to publish the documents delivered to Moscow.

Russia continues to build an invasion-sized army on three sides of Ukraine. Russian officials say troops are taking part in military exercises and have no plans to attack Ukraine.

There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin on the documents. The American reply was given by John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Moscow. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the coalition gave Russia its written response “parallel to the United States”.

Canada orders families of diplomatic staff in Ukraine to leave amid fears of attack by Russia

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Ukrainian government considers full-scale Russian offensive unlikely

Earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned, “Moscow will take necessary response measures” unless it receives a “constructive” reply from the West.

Russia has continued to arm its 2,000-kilometre border with Ukraine as well as allied Belarus and the occupied Crimea peninsula with a flurry of high-stakes diplomacy over the past two weeks. On Tuesday, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Globe and Mail that there are now an estimated 127,000 Russian troops gathered near the country’s borders.

The aide said the Ukrainian government believes a full-scale Russian offensive is less likely than some sort of campaign to destabilize the country from within. However, the White House has repeatedly warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine could be imminent.

Canada is joining the US, Britain, Germany and Australia this week in ordering the children and spouses of diplomatic staff based in Ukraine to leave the country. The Canadian embassy in Kiev remains open, although a government travel advisory said Canadians in Ukraine should “assess whether your presence is necessary.”

Mr Blinken said all US citizens in Ukraine should “strongly consider” leaving the country on commercial flights, while the option was still available. He said the US government “might not be in a position” to help civilians after the conflict in Ukraine broke out.

Mr Stoltenberg said the NATO coalition is “ready to listen and listen to Russian concerns.” But he said “it’s no secret” that both sides stayed away from Moscow’s main demands regarding Ukraine. He said tensions are rising as Russia continues to deploy troops and equipment to Belarus, which borders NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

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“There is no de-escalation,” Mr Stoltenberg told an online press conference. “We see more troops not only in and around Ukraine, but now also in Belarus, where Russia is in the process of deploying thousands of troops, hundreds of aircraft, S-400 air defense systems and many other very advanced capabilities.”

A separate diplomatic push continued on Wednesday in Paris, where Russian, Ukrainian, German and French officials held what is known as the Normandy format for the first time since 2019.

The talks, aimed at ending an eight-year-old conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region – where fighting between Moscow-backed militias and Ukrainian forces killed more than 14,000 people – ended with no apparent success. However, Ukraine’s chief negotiator Andrey Yermak said all four sides had agreed to meet again in Berlin in two weeks.

Germany has come under pressure over its close economic ties with Moscow – including the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would allow Russia to supply gas to Europe without paying transit fees to Ukraine – as well as Will refuse to provide military assistance to Kiev.

Berlin, which has a policy of not selling lethal weapons to conflict zones, announced on Wednesday it was sending 5,000 helmets to the Ukrainian military.

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko dismissed the proposal as a joke. “The behavior of the German government leaves me speechless. The Ministry of Defense clearly did not realize that we are faced with a fully equipped Russian army that could launch another invasion of Ukraine at any time, ” He told Germany’s Bild newspaper: “What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?”

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