Russian FM Lavrov: Moscow Doesn't Want War, But Won't Allow to Ignore Its Interests
Earlier this week, Russia received written responses from the US and NATO to the security guarantee proposals presented by Moscow last month in an effort to de-escalate tensions with the West over Ukraine.
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Speaking to four major Russian radio stations on Friday, two days after the US and NATO provided a written response to Russia's security guarantee proposals, made in order to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the current situation. When asked whether a war is likely, now that tensions are being heated up by the West, the foreign minister said that Russia does not want war.
"If it's up to Russia, there will be no war; Moscow does not want war, but will not allow the West to grossly ignore its interests", the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during an interview with four major Russian radio stations on Friday.
The interview with the Russian foreign minister follows the delivery of written responses from the US and NATO to Russian security guarantee proposals presented by Moscow in mid-December amid heightened tension over Ukraine. The contents of the responses haven't been made public, with NATO and the US saying they hope that Moscow won't reveal them either. However, US State Secretary Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Yens Stoltenberg said they will uphold NATO's "open door" policy.
One of the proposed paragraphs of the Russian draft agreements would obligate NATO to give written guarantees that it will not expand further to the East. Moscow insists that states that were members of NATO in May 1997, before the first eastern European countries were invited to join the bloc, should not “deploy military forces and weaponry on the territory of any of the other States in Europe” that weren’t already in place at the time. Commenting on the security guarantee proposal talks, the Russian foreign minister stated that they are ongoing.
"...the Americans and NATO, as you know, have been studying the extremely simple proposals concluded in the draft treaty with Washington and the agreement with the North Atlantic Alliance for more than a month. We received answers only the day before yesterday, which, in such a Western style, cast a shadow on negotiations in many ways, but there is some rationality, as I already said on secondary issues," Lavrov said.
According to the foreign minister, Russia wants to "work honestly" when it comes to its proposals on security guarantees, but the West "hysterically" develops the topic of Russia’s alleged threat to Ukraine. For the past few months, the West has been speculating about Russia's military build-up on the border with Ukraine and Moscow's alleged "invasion" plans. Russia has repeatedly rejected the allegations as baseless, saying that it has no intention to attack anybody, while adding that it has the right to move its troops within its own territory and that this should not be a matter of concern to anyone.
The West has repeatedly threatened Russia with new, "never seen before" sanctions, should it invade Ukraine. On 25 January, the White House said it was ready to implement "sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014", targeting the banking sector, export controls and foreign capital inflows. Commenting on threats of sanctions, Mr. Lavrov said they would be tantamount to cutting ties between the countries, and Washington understands this.
"As for the threat of sanctions. The Americans were told … that the package that is now mentioned, which is accompanied by a complete shutdown of those financial and economic systems that are controlled by the West, it will be tantamount to breaking off relations. It was mentioned, and I think, they understand it," the minister said.
Lavrov also touched upon a row over Russian diplomatic property in the US and expulsions of Russian diplomats, noting that if Washington’s “rudeness” in regard to diplomatic mission continues Russia still has reserves to make the number of diplomats equal. “Well, let's see, in the next couple of weeks, there should be another meeting. Now there is direct bargaining from the side of the Americans,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov's interview comes two days after Moscow had received a written response from Washington to the security guarantee proposals presented by Russia last month in an effort to de-escalate tensions with NATO over Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Minister said on Thursday that in their response, the US had failed to answer the main questions about the non-expansion of NATO to the east. He added that Moscow has been considering the US and NATO responses as a whole.
According to Russia's security proposals, the sides should provide legally binding written guarantees to each other not to deploy troops and military equipment in areas where they could be viewed as a threat to the other side. Russia and the US should also restrict the deployment of nuclear weapons abroad. Apart from this, Moscow expects the US and NATO to make a commitment not to expand the alliance to the east and never accept Ukraine or any other former Soviet republic into NATO.