The onus is on Moscow to reassure countries that it harbors no aggressive intent, according to Kiev
Rather than demanding assurances from Washington and NATO, Russia should provide the West with security concessions instead, Ukraine’s foreign minister has insisted, as tensions flare across Eastern Europe.
Speaking as part of a NATO ministerial meeting of the Bucharest Nine on Thursday, Kiev’s top diplomat, Dmitry Kuleba, said it was high time the West take charge and push forward conversation on key issues of European security.
According to a statement from the ministry, Kuleba said it is unacceptable for a country – which, in his words, has occupied parts of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, carries out cyber-attacks, and spreads disinformation – to seek assurances on its concerns. Moscow, however, has previously denied such allegations.
“Instead, it is the Euro-Atlantic community that should ask Russia such questions,” he proposed. “When will Russia explain to all of us how it understands its own commitment not to strengthen its security at the expense of others, including Ukraine?”
Kuleba also said that the countries of the Bucharest Nine – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania – are all too familiar with “spheres of influence” from the Soviet era.
“It is in our common interest to do our utmost to prevent Russia from regaining its sphere of influence in modern Europe,” the minister declared, adding that their unity and firmness “can protect security” on the continent.
Western leaders have repeatedly voiced concerns that Moscow’s troops were amassing at the Ukrainian border ahead of launching an invasion into the country. The Kremlin, however, has vehemently rejected the claims and looked to obtain guarantees that NATO won’t expand closer to its frontiers.
In December, Moscow handed over two draft treaties: one addressed to Washington and the other to NATO. As well as barring Kiev from joining the bloc’s ranks, Russia is insisting the bloc should refrain from military activity on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact states that joined after 1997, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, NATO’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, has said it would be unacceptable to create a “two tier” system that prevents it from engaging in activity with some member states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said that the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, was given guarantees by the West that NATO would not move into the space left by the fall of the USSR. A trove of documents was declassified in 2017, and subsequently interpreted by a number of analysts as showing that American, British, and German officials verbally assured the Kremlin in the 1990s that NATO would not move into Eastern European countries.
The Russian leader also claimed that the West “cheated” Moscow in the years that followed, when Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic states were admitted.