MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he wants “immediate” talks with the United States and NATO over security guarantees, as tensions soar between Moscow and the West over Ukraine. Earlier on Monday Russia said it may be forced to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to what it sees as NATO’s plans to do the same.
The US and its allies have for weeks accused Russia of planning an invasion of its neighbour, warning of a massive coordinated sanctions response should Putin launch an attack. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are stationed near the borders of ex-Soviet Ukraine, where the West has accused the Kremlin of backing pro-Moscow separatists since 2014, foreign media reported.
In a phone call with the Finnish president — whose country has traditionally served as middle ground between Russia and the West — Putin said he wanted security talks to begin without delay. He told President Sauli Niinsto that Moscow wants “to immediately launch negotiations with the United States and NATO in order to develop international legal guarantees for the security of our country,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia’s demands, it said, included stopping NATO from expanding east and the deployment of weapons in neighbouring states, including Ukraine. Putin reiterated the same demands in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron later on Tuesday.
In his call with the Finnish president, Putin also accused the Ukrainian leadership of increasingly using “heavy weapons and attack drones” against pro-Russia rebels in its separatist east. The Russian leader denies planning an invasion, blaming the Western security alliance for the rise in tensions and demanding “legal guarantees” the alliance won’t expand eastwards.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also told his new German counterpart Annalena Baerbock Tuesday of the “necessity to provide our country with security guarantees” against NATO expansion, Moscow said.