Putin demands NATO guarantees not to expand eastward
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow would seek Western guarantees precluding any further NATO expansion and deployment of its weapons near his country’s borders, a stern demand that comes amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Western officials have worried about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, saying it could signal Moscow’s intention of an attack. Russian diplomats countered those claims by expressing concern about Ukraine’s own military buildup near the area of the separatist conflict in the eastern part of the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, noting that Putin could quickly order an invasion of Ukraine, warned that Washington stands ready to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia if he does.
Speaking at a Kremlin ceremony where he received credentials from foreign ambassadors, Putin emphasized that Russia will seek “reliable and long-term security guarantees.”
“In a dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on working out specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory,” Putin said.
He charged that “the threats are mounting on our western border,” with NATO placing its military infrastructure closer to Russia and offered the West to engage in substantive talks on the issue, adding that Moscow would need not just verbal assurances, but “legal guarantees.”
“We aren’t demanding any special conditions for ourselves and realize that any agreements must take interests of Russia and all Euro-Atlantic countries into account,” Putin said. “A calm and stable situation must be ensured for all and is needed for all without exclusion.”