Russia is expecting “written answers” from the United States and NATO to its demands for “security guarantees” made in mid-December after talks in Geneva and Brussels this week. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized this on Friday at his annual press conference, which traditionally takes place in January, in Moscow. One expects “a reaction to each of our points” including justification and possible counter-proposals, said Lavrov. After receiving the answers, it becomes clear “whether it makes sense to renew the negotiations”. The talks on Russia’s demands, which include a renunciation of any NATO expansion and any military activity in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, had brought no rapprochement. Among other things, because the western representatives insist on the principle of the sovereignty of states. Lavrov referred to President Vladimir Putin, who said a “decision would then be made taking all factors into account” in the event that “the package” of Russia’s demands, above all the renunciation of any NATO expansion, is rejected above all in the interest of reliably guaranteeing the interests of our security”. In the West, this is seen as a threat of an open invasion of Ukraine; Russian troop concentrations on the borders with the neighboring country and in Ukraine’s Crimea, annexed in 2014, preceded this week’s talks. Russian experts, on the other hand, expect the deployment of new weapons such as supersonic missiles to be accelerated. Lavrov stressed that he was prepared for possible new US sanctions. Washington has promised Moscow punitive measures in the event of a new intervention in Ukraine. Before receiving the written answers from the US and NATO, work will be done “to ensure that we are ready for any development of events,” said the foreign minister, urging urgency: Russia’s “partners” understand that “we will not wait indefinitely.”
Lavrov attaches importance only to talks with the United States
Lavrov expressed particular displeasure about talks within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, in which representatives of states such as Poland, which see themselves directly threatened by Russia, had the floor on Thursday. Lavrov clarified that Moscow attaches importance only to talks with the United States. All statements “about the need to consult with allies, to involve all OSCE members in this process” are “excuses and attempts to involve the process”. Asked whether Moscow respects the sovereignty of Sweden and Finland, Lavrov answered affirmatively, but tied the respect to the two states’ continued “neutrality,” saying that “these countries’ “neutrality policies” are one of the most important factors in “ensuring of security on the European continent”. In response to Russian demands – which, according to one popular phrase, amount to a Cold War-style “Finlandization” of Eastern Europe – representatives of Sweden and Finland have reiterated that they are keeping the option of joining NATO open. Finland and Sweden are already coordinating closely with the alliance and, in response to the annexation of Crimea, have signed treaties with the alliance that allow NATO to station troops on their territories. “We have reason to believe that the role of neutral states in European security will not weaken,” Lavrov said.
A commentary by Reinhard Veser
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On Tuesday next week, Lavrov will receive the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock (Greens). After the federal elections, Russia’s state media reported scornfully about the election of two transgender deputies from Baerbock’s party, while also highlighting the Greens’ opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas project, which bypasses Ukraine as a transit country. Now Leonid Slutsky, the head of the International Affairs Committee of the Duma, Russia’s lower house, said he would “not diagnose Baerbock as a clearly anti-Russian politician.” Perhaps what the minister is experiencing in Russia will “force her to a certain extent to reconsider her views”. In addition to the conversation with Lavrov, Baerbock’s program includes a visit to the “Diversity United” exhibition in the New Tretyakov Gallery and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Kremlin Wall. Baerbock will travel to Kiev next Monday, where she is to be received by President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
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