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In this week’s edition: Russia security offers to the West, EUCO’s Ukraine diplomacy and EU’s African military missions review over Wagner links.
Russia has made bold ultimatums to NATO and the West, while it appears they were aware the answer would most likely be “no”.
On Wednesday, Moscow’s draft treaty on ‘security guarantees’ was handed to US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, who visited the country and met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
Less than 24 hours later, Russia sent a draft agreement on ensuring the country’s security to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The same day, in Brussels, Donfried and Stoltenberg briefed the North Atlantic Council on the two Russian proposals.
In a statement later that same evening, NATO ambassadors said they “are aware of Russia’s recent European security proposals” but instead presented their demands.
“We are clear that any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on the core principles and foundational documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners,” they said.
This is not to be the final response, but a first reaction, one can hear from NATO circles.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration is ready to discuss concerns about NATO with Russian officials’ but emphasised that Washington is committed to the “principle of nothing about you without you” in shaping policy that impacts European allies.
A senior US official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said some Russian proposals are already part of an arms control agenda between Moscow and Washington. Meanwhile, other issues, such as transparency and deconfliction, concern the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including Ukraine and Georgia.
According to him, Washington is looking at engaging every country whose interests are affected and will respond next week.
Moscow’s demands go further than the ‘red lines’ mentioned by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Under the draft proposals, NATO would have to seek consent from Moscow to deploy troops in Central and Eastern Europe, refrain from ‘any military activity’ in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the southern Caucasus, and Central Asia, along with a halt to NATO military drills near Russia.
The demand for a written guarantee that Ukraine will not be offered membership already has been rejected by the West, which said Russia does not have a say in NATO’s enlargement.
A separate treaty with the US would call for a ban on sending US and Russian warships and aircraft to “areas where they can strike targets on the territory of the other party”, like the Baltics and the Black Seas.
It would also call for a ban on the new deployment of US and Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of other countries — a repeat of Moscow’s long-time demand for the US to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe. Quite handy that the suggested ban refers to new nuclear missile deployments in border areas, seemingly not including those already deployed.
An interesting contradiction is one demand listed in the proposals, which state that NATO should adhere to the Helsinki Final Acts. NATO brass pointed out that according to the Act, states have “the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance”, and at the same time, pledge never to let Ukraine join the Alliance.
A Russian narrative that NATO broke a post-reunification promise with its enlargement is not valid, as Mikhail Gorbachev confirmed stakeholders never discuss this in the negotiations.
The first members of the former Warsaw Pact were admitted in consultation with Russia, and a NATO-Russia Council was established for dialogue purposes.
Furthermore, the narrative that Russia has been ‘encircled’ cannot be sustained by anyone looking at a map of that part of the world. If one looks at the troop levels at NATO’s eastern border, it is clear that those present do not pose a threat to Russia.
NATO diplomats say the bold ultimatums are almost certain to be rejected by the US and its allies. Giving in would open the gates to further demands.
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, noted that the public publication of the Russian demands on Friday signals that the Kremlin considers their acceptance by the West unlikely.
If this is the case, then what is their purpose?
“This logically means that Russia will have to assure its security single-handedly, most probably by using military-technical means, he said.
EU IN THE WORLD
UKRAINE RESPONSE | In case you missed it, EU leaders this week agreed to coordinate with allies over potential sanctions against Russia in the event of further military aggression on Ukraine.
The issue, however, remains to define what level of escalation would trigger what sort of response and some fear this would leave the door open to ‘sneak out’ from any commitments in case of a hybrid scenario.
SANCTIONS LOOPHOLES | Western sanctions on Alexander Lukashenko’s regime need to be better coordinated to fill the currently existing loopholes, Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya told EURACTIV ahead of a crucial Eastern Partnership summit this week.
EASTERN PARTNERS | As tensions between Ukraine and Russia are at their highest in years, EU leaders also met with their Eastern Partnership counterparts for a summit aimed to reaffirm the strategic importance of the region.
But between Ukraine mediation attempts, membership dreams and an empty Belarus chair, no one in Brussels currently can envisage them joining the bloc any time soon.
Meanwhile, Georgia said it wants ‘new elements’ in the Eastern Partnership format, the country’s envoy to the EU told EURACTIV.
WAGNER LINKS | The EU will conduct strategic reviews in early 2022 into its military and civilian missions in Africa, following reports that EU instructors might have provided training to local forces in the Central African Republic controlled by the Russian mercenary group, Wagner.
DUMPED MUNITIONS | Europe’s destructive twentieth-century conflicts resulted in thousands of tonnes of conventional and chemical munitions dumped into European waters. Today, these corroding weapons pose a danger to human health and to maritime economic activities. Now, more than ever, these dumped munitions must be cleared, says MEP Anna Fotyga.
SOFIA-SKOPJE SPAT | The new Bulgarian government will propose a “very fast” new process that should help Sofia lift its veto and unlock the start of neighbouring North Macedonia’s EU accession negotiations, Bulgaria’s new prime minister, Kiril Petkov said.
In an exclusive interview with EURACTIV, Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev explained at length the reasons behind his country’s veto which prevents North Macedonia from starting EU accession negotiations and suggested the way forward to solve the issue, which includes a change in this country’s constitution.
‘MODERN SLAVERY’ | EU lawmakers denounced “modern slavery” in Serbia, notably the reports about forced labour in the Chinese Linglong tyre factory in the city of Zrenjanin.
TRADE ROW | The may take the trade row between China and Lithuania to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it finds evidence that Beijing is violating international trade rules, the European Commission said this week. However, such a process might take too long to make a difference for Lithuania.
OLYMPIC BOYCOTT, OR NOT? | Europe is split over its political representation at the upcoming Beijing Olympics – and its dilly-dallying has already awarded China its first victory.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING
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