Russia has demanded that Ukraine be permanently barred from joining NATO.
The US and NATO have been adamant that this is a non-starter.
Russia on Thursday warned it could be “forced to respond” militarily if the US doesn’t agree to its demands for binding security guarantees, including permanently barring Ukraine and Georgia from NATO. The US has repeatedly made it clear that this demand is a non-starter.
“In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees of ensuring our security by the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures,” the Kremlin said on Thursday in an 11-page response to written proposals submitted by the US in late January on Moscow’s security demands.
The US and NATO have firmly rejected Russia’s demand that Ukraine be forever banned from the alliance, stating that countries should be free to choose their own allies and defensive partnerships. Though Ukraine has sought to join NATO for years, it’s not on the formal track to become a member at any point in the near future. But with an estimated 150,000 troops surrounding Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that the issue be resolved now.
Putin has complained about NATO’s eastward expansion for years, ignoring the ways in which his aggressive behavior has pushed countries like Ukraine closer to the alliance and to the West more generally. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea, and since that year has supported rebels in a war against Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region. Experts say Putin’s bellicose posture toward Ukraine is linked to his broader ambitions of seeing Russia regain the power and influence it enjoyed across the region and beyond during the Soviet-era.
Russia on Thursday once again denied any plans to invade Ukraine, despite its massive military buildup on the border of its next-door neighbor.
“There is no and is not planned any ‘Russian invasion’ of Ukraine, which the United States and its allies have been declaring at the official level since autumn last year, therefore statements about Russia’s ‘responsibility for the escalation’ cannot be regarded otherwise than as an attempt to put pressure on and devalue Russia’s proposals for security guarantees,” the Kremlin said.
Russia has gathered roughly 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, according to the Biden administration, which has warned that a Russian invasion could occur at any moment. On Tuesday, Moscow claimed it was withdrawing some troops from Ukraine’s border, but the US and NATO rejected this and said there have been no signs of Russian de-escalation.
The Biden administration has warned that Russia is looking for a pretext to invade, and could use covert operatives to stage some kind of sabotage to try to justify it.
“Russia says it’s drawing down those forces. We do not see that happening on the ground. Our information indicates clearly that these forces, including ground troops, aircraft, ships, are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, amid reports of shelling in eastern Ukraine.