Fears of Russian invasion rise as Kremlin sends demands to Nato and US
The Kremlin has sent a list of demands to Nato and the White House, while sending more troops to Ukraine’s eastern border – increasing fears of a potential Russian invasion.
US President Joe Biden held extensive virtual talks with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin last week, warning of sanctions and severe economic consequences if Russia breached Ukraine’s borders.
Russia is now seeking assurances the US will not push to expand Nato eastwards and bring Ukraine into the organisation – fearing the installation of medium range nuclear missiles near its own soil.
It has handed the White House and NATO a list of demands in two draft treaties, including strict limits on NATO activities in neighbouring countries and reducing the deployment of heavy weapons and troops in areas where they could be seen as a threat to Russia.
These demands are highly unlikely to be approved by Nato or the White House – as Russia’s terms would prevent the West from militarily supporting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland.
Nato would also have to abandon any plans for Ukraine and Georgia to eventually join the Western alliance.
Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated this year, with the Kremlin criticising military exercises near Ukraine in the past year including UK warships sailing through the Black Sea and NATO-led military manoeuvres in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to support rebel groups in the Donbas region and has amassed 175,000 troops near Ukraine’s border.
According to CNN, the latest US intelligence assessments also place more than 50 so-called “Battalion Tactical Groups” around the Ukraine border – with six more on the way.
BTGs are self-sufficient combat units made up of a combination of troops, artillery, anti-tank weapons, reconnaissance and engineering units.
These groups were heavily utilised by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Crimean invasion seven years ago.
On Thursday the Kremlin said it was ready to send a government negotiator “at any moment” to hold more talks with the US, in order to defuse the current crisis.
Government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also said both presidents could speak again before New Year, though nothing firm had been agreed.
So far, the US has refused to rescind a 2008 NATO commitment to Ukraine and Georgia that both countries would eventually become Nato members – defending the right for both independent nations to make their own foreign policy choices.
Meanwhile UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has described Russia’s military build up on the borders of Ukraine as “unprovoked and unjustified”
She said: “Russia should take concrete steps to reduce tensions. The UK will continue to respond to Russia’s actions with our allies and partners.”
However, Biden has stopped short of pledging a military response to an invasion of Ukraine, ruling out the possibility of American boots on the ground.
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has also warned it is “highly unlikely” the UK will send troops to Ukraine to defend the country, in the event of any invasion.
Speaking to The Spectator, he said “We shouldn’t kid people we would. The Ukrainians are aware of that.”
European Union leaders agreed earlier this week they would impose further economic sanctions on Russia – in tandem with the United States and the UK – if the Russian military invaded Ukraine, although they also encouraged more talks with Moscow.
Germany has threatened to prevent Nord Stream 2 from being certified if Russia invades Ukraine, following up from its commitment last summer to not approve the gas pipeline if the Kremlin used it as a weapon.
The country’s energy regulator recently revealed the full certification of the pipeline would not be possible in the first half of 2022, regardless.