Russia Details Security Demands To U.S. And NATO

On Tuesday the 14th I wrote about the serious security demands Russia is making towards the U.S.

Russia fells the need to press the U.S. for new agreements because the current development of NATO sneaking into the Ukraine endangers Russia’s core security interests and would otherwise lead to a military confrontation.

On Wednesday the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried in Moscow. Ryabkov presented her two draft treaties that Russia wants to seen implemented. On Friday both drafts were published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

The first treaty would be between the U.S. and the Russian Federation while the second one would be between Russia and all NATO member states. The drafts detail and formalize the demands made previously. I had summarized those in the previous post:

The statement includes this list of demands:

  • No more NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders. Retraction of the 2008 NATO invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.
  • Legally binding guarantee that no strike systems which could target Moscow will be deployed in countries next to Russia.
  • No NATO or equivalent (UK, U.S., Pl.) ‘exercises’ near Russian borders.
  • NATO ships, planes to keep certain distances from Russian borders.
  • Regular military-to-military talks.
  • No intermediate-range nukes in Europe.

That the above is not a “pretty please” wishlist has since been emphasized by several Russian authorities:

The draft treaties are short but the devil is in their details and I am not yet ready to discuss them in full. They are anyway only negotiation positions that will have to be discussed between the relevant parties.

An typical example is Article 7 in the draft treaty between the U.S. and Russia:

Article 7

The Parties shall refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories and return such weapons already deployed outside their national territories at the time of the entry into force of the Treaty to their national territories. The Parties shall eliminate all existing infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons outside their national territories.

The Parties shall not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons. The Parties shall not conduct exercises or training for general-purpose forces, that include scenarios involving the use of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has ‘nuclear sharing’ agreements with some old NATO countries (Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey(?)) according to which those countries would, during a war against the Warsaw Pact countries, use their airplanes to drop nuclear bombs which are stored in those countries under U.S. control. This would of course never have really work out in a war but was an argument for the U.S. to sell its ‘nuclear certified’ planes. The ‘nuclear sharing’ is also highly dubious under Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). It no longer makes any sense and should be abolished.

Under Article 7 the U.S. would have to remove those bombs and no longer train foreign forces in using them. The draft treaty goes even beyond NATO and would include U.S. nuclear weapons which, unacknowledged, may be stored on some Pacific island bases as well as in Japan and South Korea.

Even though those steps would be good for everyone’s security I am pretty sure that the U.S. will be unwilling to commit to that in full. But it is a good point to have a discussion about and to find some compromise that fits both sides.

The same holds for all other points in the draft treaties.

Some NATO officials have already dismissed the Russian demands. Fortunately none of them counts. Funnily they make a similar argument as Russia does:

The officials also suggested that if Russia did make a major new military incursion into Ukraine, as it seems to be planning, NATO would strongly consider moving more troops into allied countries bordering Ukraine, like Poland and the Baltic countries, because the “strategic depth” against Russia that Ukraine now provides would be damaged or lost.

NATO sees the Ukraine as ‘strategic depth’ that protects it from Russia but it also wants to integrate the Ukraine into NATO and thereby remove the ‘strategic depth’ that protects Russia from NATO. Whoever made that argument clearly has not thought through the issue.

The White House response was more careful:

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said in Washington on Friday that while the Russians had a list of security concerns, so did the United States and its European allies, and that Washington was willing to negotiate on that basis.

“We’ve had a dialogue with Russia on European security issues for the last 20 years,” Mr. Sullivan told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We had it with the Soviet Union for decades before that.”

That process “has sometimes produced progress, sometimes produced deadlock,” he said, noting that the United States planned “to put on the table our concern with Russian activities that we believe harm our interests and values.”

“It’s very difficult to see agreements getting consummated,” he added, “if we’re continuing to see an escalatory cycle.”

To me that sounds like: ‘Let’s stop moving forces around and lets sit down and talk.’ That is fine with me. Do it.

The New York Times piece from which I clipped the above also added a load of propaganda to the issue:

[The Russians] assert that NATO expanded to the east despite a spoken assurance from James Baker, then the secretary of state, to the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, that it would not.

The agreement was never put in writing and Mr. Baker said later that Russian officials misinterpreted his comment, which applied only to the territory of the former East Germany. Mr. Gorbachev has, in interviews, confirmed that spoken assurance came in discussions only of East Germany.

That is a lie as it was not just Baker who had made the promise to not move NATO east and it also was not just about East Germany. A visit to the National Security Archive at the George Washington University can easily debunk that NYT passage:

Declassified documents show security assurances against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner

The first concrete assurances by Western leaders on NATO began on January 31, 1990, when West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher opened the bidding with a major public speech at Tutzing, in Bavaria, on German unification. The U.S. Embassy in Bonn (see Document 1) informed Washington that Genscher made clear “that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, NATO should rule out an ‘expansion of its territory towards the east, i.e. moving it closer to the Soviet borders.’” The Bonn cable also noted Genscher’s proposal to leave the East German territory out of NATO military structures even in a unified Germany in NATO.

This latter idea of special status for the GDR territory was codified in the final German unification treaty signed on September 12, 1990, by the Two-Plus-Four foreign ministers (see Document 25). The former idea about “closer to the Soviet borders” is written down not in treaties but in multiple memoranda of conversation between the Soviets and the highest-level Western interlocutors (Genscher, Kohl, Baker, Gates, Bush, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Major, Woerner, and others) offering assurances throughout 1990 and into 1991 about protecting Soviet security interests and including the USSR in new European security structures. The two issues were related but not the same. Subsequent analysis sometimes conflated the two and argued that the discussion did not involve all of Europe. The documents published below show clearly that it did.

Russia has put its cards on the table. It is now for the U.S. to show that it accepts talks on a equal level. To get to real treaties will take some time. There will be a lot of resistance from the Republican side against such an ‘appeasement’. For a Democratic president it will be nearly impossible to get such a treaty ratified by a soon Republican controlled Senate. So the whole thing may have to wait for the next president to get it done.

Still, its a start and a good one too.