On December 17, 2021, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its draft Russia-US Treaty on Security Guarantees in Europe. The document proposes:
- the official commitment of NATO's non-expansion to the East, the non-deployment of medium and short-range missiles in territory from which it is possible to strike the territory of the United States and Russia;
- NATO's renunciation of any military activity in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, as well as the non-deployment of additional military and weapons outside the countries in which they were as of May 1997 (before the accession of the Eastern European countries to the alliance).
Firstly, by proposing this document, Vladimir Putin demonstrates that Russia is a global player and will conduct a dialogue not with Ukraine or Europe, but with the United States of America.
Secondly, the Russian Federation does not actually make concessions on its part, demanding from the United States the withdrawal of the troops from Eastern Europe, the non-deployment of missile weapons, and guarantees of NATO's non-expansion. Thus, the Russian side completely ignores the reasons prompting the countries of the eastern flank of NATO to join the Alliance. Vladimir Putin prefers not to mention that NATO's eastward expansion was a political rather than a military process. There was no deployment of NATO forces, let alone missile weapons, on the territory of the new members of the Alliance. At the same time, a deep reduction of their military forces took place.
Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin is putting forward the ultimate conditions that neither the United States nor the North Atlantic Alliance can meet. Almost immediately, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Putin's demands for official guarantees of non-enlargement. «We will never compromise on the security of our allies or on the right of every country, including Ukraine, to decide its own destiny», he said. The United States has reacted less strongly to Russia's proposals, stressing its intention to discuss European security issues with other NATO and Partner countries. It is possible that the Joe Biden administration is still considering making concessions to Russia at the expense of Eastern European countries. So, it is not surprising that Russia is once again neglecting the fundamental principles of international law, defining the right of countries to determine their own foreign policy vector. It is worth noting that the issue of Ukraine's accession to NATO is currently not on the agenda. This year's summit of the North Atlantic Alliance confirmed the decision of the Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will join the Alliance in the future. However, Ukraine received neither specific dates nor a Membership Action Plan, as its leadership expected. Thus, the current crisis, which the Kremlin allegedly proposes to resolve with a published document, was created by the Kremlin itself.
Since the election of Joseph Biden as the 47th President of the United States of America, the Russian Federation has raised the rates in relations with the United States. The Russian leadership did not take advantage of the favorable conditions given the desire of the new American administration to build a predictable strategic dialogue with Russia. Joe Biden's foreign policy course opened up prospects for Russia, which could receive some concessions from the United States if it changed its behavior on the international stage and refrained from escalation. A striking example was Joe Biden's refusal to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2. However, by choosing a course of confrontation, Russian leadership has limited the range of possible policies. Russia is currently continuing to raise rates, and a possible full-scale invasion of Ukraine is predicted in the coming month.
On December 22, at a meeting of the board of the Ministry of Defense in Moscow held with the participation of President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that representatives of American private military companies had placed chemical weapons in the front-line towns of Chervony Liman and Avdiivka and were preparing a provocation. This accusation was promptly answered by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the US State Department and the Pentagon, calling it disinformation and provocation. «Contrary to statements from the Russian Defense Minister, Russia and its proxies are responsible for escalating tensions, not Ukraine or the United States», US Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price tweeted, urging the Kremlin to stop using false, inflammatory rhetoric and take meaningful steps to de-escalate tensions.
Obviously, the United States, which does not supply Ukraine even with conventional weapons in sufficient quantities, would never go for the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to Ukraine. Similarly, Ukraine, which adheres to its obligations under international treaties, including The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, would not take a step that would provoke an armed response from Russia. In fact, Russia is looking for an excuse to justify the launch of large-scale military intervention in Ukraine. It is for this purpose that the Russian military leadership has made this controversial statement: to discredit Ukraine and create an excuse to increase the aggression. The Russian president, by analogy with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, demonstrates that the Russian Federation can afford to do what great powers can do.
In the context of increasing tension on the Russian-Ukrainian border and against the background of negotiations and mutual statements between Russia and the United States, Vladimir Putin made it clear that he would talk exclusively with the American president and it seems that European capitals are trying in any way to avoid a conflict with the Russian Federation, being content with a secondary role. At present, the North Atlantic Alliance is moving on the inertia of American foreign policy and is avoiding its defense tasks. According to Jens Stoltenberg, the Alliance can quickly deploy a 40,000-strong contingent on the territory of the eastern member states. NATO's Rapid Reaction Forces were put on high alert on 22 December and are ready for missions. However, the question arises as to whether NATO's 40,000 troops could oppose the Russian army, which according to various estimates could number about 200,000. Instead of adequately countering the Russian Federation policy, the Alliance's deterrence strategy is limited to attempts to change Russia's policy only through diplomacy, as well as threats to use economic sanctions. However, for the eighth year in a row, sanctions cannot force Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine, and this time, when the Russian leadership has significantly raised the rates, economic sanctions, even much tougher, will not change Russian policy.
In such circumstances, the statements of the American and British leadership, as well as Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, that Ukraine will not receive direct military assistance, make it clear that Ukraine is left alone with the Russian Federation. Joe Biden's strategy for Ukraine has failed, since cuts in military aid to Ukraine and concessions to Vladimir Putin have been perceived as weaknesses. Moreover, the intention to oppose authoritarian regimes declared by the 46th President of the United States is now being replaced by dialogue, which shows that such bravura statements were only an element of rhetoric to win Donald Trump in the presidential election. The draft Treaty on Security Guarantees in Europe, which contains futile proposals, as well as accusations of deploying chemical weapons in the Donbas, may soon be used by Russia as an excuse for large-scale aggression against Ukraine. In any scenario, Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine will have negative consequences for European security as a whole and Europe will have to pay a heavy price both in the event of active support and inaction. Therefore, the United States and other North Atlantic members of the alliance must reject the illusions about the Kremlin's real intentions and provide substantial assistance to Ukraine in the form of offensive and defensive weapons.