West accuses Russia of amassing more troops on Ukraine’s border, and Putin criticizes it over security guarantees
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday criticized the West’s response to his country’s security guarantees, and warned Moscow that sanctions over Ukraine would sever ties with the West. This comes at a time when Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have talked about Russia amassing more forces on the border with its western neighbor.
The Russian presidency said that Putin told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, in a lengthy phone call between them today, Friday, that the West’s response did not take into account Russia’s concerns about NATO’s expansion to the east and the deployment of missiles close to Russia.
The Kremlin added that Putin also told Macron that the responses of Washington and NATO to the security guarantees proposals that Moscow presented to them did not take into account Russia’s security concerns, and that the West ignored the principle of indivisibility in security in its response.
He added that the Russian President stressed the importance of Kiev implementing the Minsk Agreement and starting dialogue with the Donbas region, which has been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
Today, Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Russian National Security Council to discuss the latest international and regional developments.
Putin said at the meeting that the Russian Foreign Ministry had prepared an updated version of the concept of Russian foreign policy and its orientations, noting that the updated version reflected the changes that had occurred in international politics over the past five years.
The phone conversation between Putin and Macron and the meeting of Russia’s National Security Council come amid Western accusations that Russia is continuing to build up its forces in preparation for a possible invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
Washington and its allies talked about the deployment of about 100,000 Russian soldiers on the borders of Ukraine, and two days ago, 10 thousand Russian forces began new maneuvers in the Rostov region (southern Russia).
Cut the relationships
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that if the West implements the sanctions it vows, this step will lead to the severing of relations with Russia, adding that Moscow informed the Americans about this, considering that it is not in anyone’s interest.
Lavrov continued – in radio statements – that if the matter was related to Russia, there would be no war, and stressed Moscow’s choice of diplomacy, explaining that the subsequent Russian steps would be determined by the Kremlin in consultation with the military if negotiations on security guarantees failed.
Regarding these guarantees in particular, the Russian minister said that NATO’s response to the Russian proposals regarding security guarantees was very ideological.
Washington had handed Moscow a written response to the Russian proposals, and Moscow had expressed its disappointment with the American response.
In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that Moscow had proposed, on the issue of security guarantees, the return of all US nuclear weapons from NATO countries to US soil.
Growing Russian crowd
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that Russia is continuing its military build-up and deploying thousands of its forces and the S-400 missile system in Belarus.
Stoltenberg added that NATO is ready to intensify its military presence in Eastern Europe in order to deter Russia.
The Secretary-General of NATO considered that Ukraine is capable of inflicting painful military strikes on Russia, noting that the main goal of the alliance now is to reduce escalation and sit down with Russia for dialogue.
In Washington, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense (Pentagon), John Kirby, said that Russia is mobilizing more combat forces in the west of the country, and in neighboring Belarus.
For his part, the US ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, said that the Russian threat to Ukraine is imminent and may occur at any moment given the size of the Russian military buildup.
Solvian added that his country and its allies and partners are concerned about Russia’s massive military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and the harsh rhetoric, and the dissemination of false narratives that Ukraine seeks to provoke conflict, as he put it.
He noted that diplomacy and dialogue are the preferred path forward for all, and that the United States and its allies are ready to impose sanctions with dire consequences on Russia if it chooses a different path.
Washington had called for an open session of the UN Security Council next Monday on the crisis, after weeks of consultations with Ukraine and other countries in the Security Council.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said the meeting would discuss what she described as Russia’s threatening behavior on Ukraine, including the buildup of troops on its border.
In a call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, US President Joe Biden stressed his country, its allies and partners’ readiness to respond decisively if Russia invaded Ukraine, and Biden’s statements came after Washington announced that it had put thousands of soldiers on high alert as part of a possible activation of the Atlantic Rapid Intervention Force if Russia invaded Ukraine.
In a remarkable position, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that his country would go to war alongside Russia when aggression occurred on its territory or on Russian territory, as he put it.
Lukashenko stressed in a speech to parliament that thousands of Russian soldiers would fight with his country’s soldiers if that happened.
On the ground, the pro-Russian separatists said that the Ukrainian army is preparing a military attack on their positions in Donbass, stressing that the military plan for the attack is being prepared under the supervision of American military advisers.
Nord Stream 2
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed that the sanctions to be imposed on Russia when it takes military action against Ukraine may include stopping the work of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
With the increasing tension between Ukraine and Russia, Europe’s concerns are emerging about the impact on energy supplies, and its quest to find alternatives away from the Russian option.
A recent official report by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) confirmed the unprecedented rise in the European market’s needs for gas in the last quarter of last year.
The report confirmed that Europe’s imports of liquefied gas for 2021 amounted to 80 million tons, with a share equal to one-fifth of the global market.
The European market imports came from 5 main destinations, led by the United States with 31%, Qatar by 20%, and Russia by 18%.
However, other sources say that 40% of Europe’s gas needs come from Russia, while Qatar covers 5% of Europe’s needs.
About a third of the Russian gas flowing to Europe passes through Ukraine, but Moscow seeks to bypass Kiev, especially through the “Nord Stream 2” line, which links it with Germany directly, while the remaining quantities of European gas imports are distributed to Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. .