Russia and the West: Lavrov calls for written answers

RAfter the talks this week in Geneva and Brussels, the usa expects the United States and NATO to provide “written responses” to its demands for “security guarantees” made in mid-December. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized this on Friday at his annual press conference in Moscow, which traditionally takes place in January. One expects “a reaction to each of our points,” including reasons and possible counter-proposals, Lavrov said. After receiving the answers it became clear “whether it makes sense to renew the negotiations”.

The talks on Russia’s demands, which include renouncing any NATO expansion and any military activity in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, had not brought any rapprochement. Among other things, because the Western representatives insist on the principle of sovereignty of states. Lavrov referred in the event that “the package” of Russia’s demands, above all the renunciation of any NATO expansion, were rejected, to President Vladimir Putin, who said that a “decision would then be made taking all factors into account especially in the interests 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 neighboring countries and in the Ukrainian Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, preceded the week’s talks. Russian experts, on the other hand, are counting on the accelerated deployment of new weapons such as supersonic missiles.

Lavrov stressed that they were prepared for possible new sanctions from the United States. Washington has promised Moscow punitive measures in the event of a new intervention in Ukraine. Before receiving the written replies from the USA and NATO, work would be done to ensure that “we are ready for any development of events,” said the Foreign Minister and urged that Russia’s “partners” understand that “we do not wait indefinitely”.

Lavrov only attaches importance to talks with the US

Lavrov expressed particular displeasure about talks held within 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 made it clear that Moscow only attaches importance 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”.

Lavrov replied affirmatively when asked whether Moscow respected the sovereignty of Sweden and Finland, but linked the respect to the continued “neutrality” of the two states by saying that the “neutrality policy of these countries” was one of the most important factors in the “guarantee of security on the European continent ”. In response to Russian demands – which, according to a common phrase, amount to “Finlandizing” Eastern Europe along the lines of the Cold War – representatives of Sweden and Finland have affirmed 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 assume that the role of neutral states in European security will not weaken,” said Lavrov.

On Tuesday next week Lavrov will receive the new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens). After the federal elections, the Russian state media scornfully reported on the election of two transgender MPs from Baerbock’s party, and on the other hand highlighted the Greens’ opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas project, which bypasses Ukraine as a transit country. Now Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, said of the Russian lower house that 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 be traveling to Kiev next Monday, where she will be received by President Volodymyr Selenskyj and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

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