Russia asks US to withdraw arms, personnel from new NATO members

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart (not pictured) following their talks in Moscow, Russia, 17 February 2022. Di Maio is on a working visit to Moscow. [EPA-EFE/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV / POOL]

Russia told the US on Thursday (17 February) it should withdraw arms and personnel from new NATO members, and that it and NATO must legally commit to stop NATO enlargement eastward.

The demands come following US proposals aimed at defusing tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border. As diplomatic affords to try and calm the situation, the latest details come following reports in media including Russian news agency RIA Novosti and Spanish newspaper El Pais.

On 2 February, the latter released what it said was a leaked copy of a US response to Russian demands, in which Washington offered talks with Moscow on an agreement for both sides to refrain from stationing offensive missiles or troops in Ukraine. The authenticity of the 11-page leaked document has been confirmed.

On Thursday, US Ambassador John Sullivan received the Russian response in Moscow, a senior State Department official said.

According to RIA Novosti, the main thrust of the Russian reply is as follows:

  • Russia considers that the US “distorted” Russia’s proposals for security guarantees in the direction of creating benefits for Washington and its allies, ignoring the package nature of the proposals, choosing convenient topics;
  • Russia considers as unacceptable the Western requests that Russia withdraws troops from certain areas of its own territory;
  • Russia says that for de-escalation around Ukraine, Kyiv must comply with the Minsk agreements, that arms supplies from Western countries to Ukraine must stop, and those already delivered be withdrawn, that all Western advisers and instructors should be withdrawn, and NATO must abandon exercises with Ukraine;
  • Russia insists on withdrawal of all US forces and weapons from Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics;
  • Russia expects concrete proposals from the United States and NATO on the content and forms of the alliance’s legal engagement not to expand eastward.

Russia has reportedly stated that arms control issues cannot be considered in isolation from other protection measures.

The United States said late Thursday that Blinken and his Moscow counterpart Sergei Lavrov had agreed to meet next week — provided there was no invasion before then.

Russia has massed enormous air, land and sea forces around Ukraine, but President Vladimir Putin and officials say the troops only conduct practice exercises.

Russia also expelled the number two US diplomat in Moscow, the US State Department said, condemning the “unprovoked” action.

Russia expels No. 2 American official in Moscow; US weighs response

Russia has expelled the No. 2 US official in Moscow, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday (17 February), with Washington calling the banishment unprovoked and warning of an American response amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden will host a call on Friday about the Ukraine crisis with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Britain, the European Union, and NATO, the office of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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