14 December 2021 — Moon of Alabama
Following unfounded U.S. claims of an imminent Russian invasion of the Ukraine U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin have held a virtual summit. Little has been released about its real content but the Russian follow up shows that the issues they talked about were deadly serious.
On December 10 the Russian Foreign Ministry published a statementthat not only sounds like an ultimatum but seems to be meant as one:
We note US President Joseph Biden’s readiness expressed at the December 7, 2021 talks with President Vladimir Putin to establish a serious dialogue on issues related to ensuring the security of the Russian Federation. Such a dialogue is urgently needed today when the relations between Russia and the collective West continue to decay and have approached a critical line. At the same time, numerous loose interpretations of our position have emerged in recent days. In this connection we feel it is necessary to once again clarify the following.
Escalating a confrontation with our country is absolutely unacceptable. As a pretext, the West is using the situation in Ukraine, where it embarked on encouraging Russophobia and justifying the actions of the Kiev regime to undermine the Minsk agreements and prepare for a military scenario in Donbass.
Instead of reigning in their Ukrainian protégés, NATO countries are pushing Kiev towards aggressive steps. There can be no alternative interpretation of the increasing number of unplanned exercises by the United States and its allies in the Black Sea. NATO members’ aircraft, including strategic bombers, regularly make provocative flights and dangerous manoeuvres in close proximity to Russia’s borders. The militarisation of Ukraine’s territory and pumping it with weapons are ongoing.
The course has been chosen of drawing Ukraine into NATO, which is fraught with the deployment of strike missile systems there with a minimal flight time to Central Russia, and other destabilising weapons. Such irresponsible behaviour creates grave military risks for all parties involved, up to and including a large-scale conflict in Europe.
All the NATO action mentioned above directly endangers Russia’s security. It has to cease. Some of the steps taken must be reversed and Russia will have to be given guarantees that certain measures will not be taken. 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:
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday warned of confrontation should the United States and NATO fail to give Russia security guarantees concerning its eastern expansion, the RIA news agency reported.
President Vladimir Putin has demanded legally binding security guarantees that NATO will not expand further east or place its weapons close to Russian territory; Washington has repeatedly said no country can veto Ukraine’s NATO hopes.
The confrontation Ryabkov talks about would not be verbal if Russia’s red lines get crossed:
We have openly pointed out that there are red lines which we will not allow anyone to cross, and we also have certain requirements, which have been formulated exceedingly clearly.
Russia can of course veto the Ukraine’s entry into NATO. It can destroy the Ukrainian military, take the regions of Ukraine where a majority speaks Russian and create a new sovereign state from them.
The remaining agricultural Banderastan would be left for Poland and Romania to feast on. This would give Russia the strategic depth it needs and it would limit the NATO friendly coastline in the Black Sea to the south western parts.
A Russian attack on the Ukraine is however what western weapon producers and their adjunct think tanks, ‘experts’ and political hawks, mainly in the U.S., deeply wish for. It would isolate Russia, increase the U.S. role in Europe, justify increasing military budgets and end the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and other Russian export routes.
And that is the reason why Russia will not attack and use alternative measures.
Unless, of course, …
In a phone call with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson Putin repeated the demands and explained his reasoning:
Like other Western leaders, Boris Johnson expressed concern about Russia’s alleged large-scale troop movements near the Ukrainian border. In this regard, Vladimir Putin provided in-depth and principled assessments of the current situation in Ukraine.
Specific examples of Kiev’s destructive course on derailing the Minsk agreements, which are the only viable path towards resolving the internal Ukraine crisis, were given. It was also pointed out that the Ukrainian authorities are purposefully aggravating the situation on the line of contact and are using heavy weapons and attack drones, which are prohibited by the Minsk Package of Measures in the conflict zone. Ukraine’s policy of discrimination against Russian-speaking people was pointed out as well.
It was emphasised that all this is happening amid the active military “exploration” of Ukraine’s territory by NATO, something that poses a direct threat to Russia’s security.
With this in mind, Vladimir Putin stated the need to immediately begin talks in order to develop clear international legal agreements that can preclude NATO’s further eastward advance and the deployment of weapons that pose a threat to Russia in neighbouring states, primarily Ukraine. Russia will present draft documents to this end.
The NATO countries which push for further moves against Russia, mostly the Baltic 3 and Poland, see all their dreams endangered. They will resist any move towards a fulfillment of Russia’s demands. They are however not the ones that count.
It is the U.S., Germany and France that Russia is counting on to get some senses. The upcoming winter, which is predicted to be somewhat harsh, is a good opportunity to apply a little pressure to Europe and to show that it is Russia, not the U.S., which provides Europe energy security. The new Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer understands that:
In an interview published on Tuesday in the German newspaper Die Welt, Nehammer, who was elected chancellor earlier this month, was asked if the Austrian government will continue to support Nord Stream 2. He replied, “Of course,” adding that he expects the pipeline to begin operating soon.
“I don’t consider it necessary to connect Nord Stream 2 with Russia’s behavior in Ukraine,” he went on, referencing a recent political standoff between Moscow and Kiev. “The EU can only hurt itself by doing so. Nord Stream 2 doesn’t only serve Russia’s interests – Germany, Austria, and other EU countries will profit from it. Nord Stream 2 is a European project, which shouldn’t be used as a tool to pressure Moscow.”
This winter Russia will use its market power to press for a fulfillment of its demands. Russia has stopped to provide natural gas to the European spot markets. It continues to deliver in full to customers who have long term contracts. This will squeeze Poland and a few others who depend on the spot market in times of peak demand. Russia hopes that those countries learn that their excessive hostility towards it can have serious consequences.
As Russia has no direct tool to squeeze the U.S. it will need a different strategy to push Biden to change course. The current main foreign policy concern in the U.S. is China. Russia is therefore coordinating its strategy with it:
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will discuss “aggressive” language from the U.S. and NATO during their virtual meeting later this week, according to the Kremlin.
“The situation in international affairs, especially on the European continent, is very, very tense right now and requires discussion between allies,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to a Reuters report. “We see very, very aggressive rhetoric on the NATO and U.S. side, and this requires discussion between us and the Chinese.”
Notice Peskov’s use of the word “allies”. This is, as far as I know, new. There is no formal treaty between Russia and China that makes them ‘allies’ so the use of the word is highly significant.
This is a concern for an Asia pundit who fears that any Russian move on Ukraine would be accompanied by a Chinese move on Taiwan. To prevent that she urges the U.S. to end the endless confrontation with Russia and to concentrate on the far east.
We can only hope that Biden understands such reasoning, finally shuts up the Russia hawks and ends the conflict with Moscow.
Otherwise we will all be in for some interesting times.