- Russia continues to demand Ukraine and Georgia never be allowed to join NATO.
- Both NATO and the US have made it clear this is a nonstarter.
- Diplomats have gathered in Europe this week to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
While threatening Ukraine with the prospect of an invasion, Russia continues to make demands that the US and NATO will never agree to as diplomats gather in Europe to address the crisis.
Russia has repeatedly insisted that Ukraine and Georgia never be permitted to join NATO — a proposition the US and the alliance have continuously and firmly dismissed as a nonstarter.
Following talks between a US and Russian delegation in Geneva on Monday aimed at staving off an invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow wanted “iron clad, legally binding guarantees” that neither country would ever become a NATO member, NPR reported.
“We are fed up with loose talk, half-promises or loose interpretation of what happened in negotiations behind closed doors. We do not trust the other side,” Ryabkov said.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the head of the US delegation, in a separate briefing told reporters that NATO “will not allow anyone to slam close NATO’s open door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance.”
Sherman’s comments echoed what’s been said time and again by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of,” Stoltenberg said to reporters on Friday.
The US and NATO have warned Russia of severe economic consequences if it invades Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly stated it has no intention of invade, despite raising the temperature in the region by gathering tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border.
“There are no plans or intentions to attack Ukraine,” Ryabkov said on Monday, NPR reported, adding that there’s “no reason to fear some kind of escalatory scenario.”
Meanwhile, Sherman challenged Russia to “return the troops to barracks or tell us what exercises are ongoing and what their purpose is.”
Ukraine and Georgia are both former Soviet republics that have faced Russian invasions within the past 15 years.
Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has backed separatists in a war against Ukrainian forces in the Donbass region since that year. In the time since, Russia has continued to assume an aggressive posture toward Ukraine. Experts say that Russian President Vladimir Putin views Ukraine as “unfinished business.”
In 2008, Russian forces invaded Georgia as part of a short-lived, but deeply formative war. A 2009 EU investigation found that Georgia’s attacks on separatists in South Ossetia triggered the conflict, but faulted both sides for the five-day war and said “Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense.” And in early 2021, the European court of human rights ruled that Russia committed human rights violations in the war — including the murder of Georgian civilians.
Russian troops continue to occupy roughly 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory (South Ossetia and Abkhazia), and has continued to quietly seize more territory.
Both the Ukraine and Georgia have expressed a desire to join NATO, and the alliance maintains robust partnerships with both. Putin finds this unacceptable and has repeatedly warned against allowing either country to join NATO.
Putin has blamed the US and its allies for the tensions over Ukraine and Georgia, though it was his aggressive actions in the region that pushed both countries closer to NATO and the West more generally.
Diplomatic discussions on Ukraine are set to continue in Europe over the course of the week. NATO members and Russian envoys are poised to hold talks in Brussels on Wednesday, followed by a meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday. No major breakthroughs were achieved in Monday’s meeting, and the situation remains tense.
“Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities,” Sherman said, per the New York Times. “It was not what we would call a negotiation.”