Russia ‘not bluffing’ on NATO rollback, warns of ‘large-scale conflict in Europe’

Russia will not drop a demand that NATO “be rolled back” to its 1997 boundaries, according to a senior Russian envoy, a requirement backed by the threat of “a large-scale conflict in Europe” arising out of Ukraine.

“We are not bluffing,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday, per state-run TASS. “These are our real proposals. The West’s awareness of this needs to be facilitated, and we are going to make every effort to achieve it.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has amassed military forces around Ukrainian borders, ostensibly due to the dangers presented by Ukraine joining NATO at some future date. Putin’s team, which oversaw the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, portrays the latest round of tensions a consequence of NATO expansion over the last 25 years, raising the prospect of a major war in Europe.

“It is important to lower the degree of confrontation caused by the way our U.S. colleagues are looking after their Ukrainian proteges,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview published Sunday. “The course on dragging Kyiv into NATO with the prospect of deploying attack missile systems near our borders creates unacceptable threats to Russia’s security, thus provoking serious military risks for all parties involved, up to a large-scale conflict in Europe.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants to join NATO, but that process has been stalled for nearly two decades. President Joe Biden said in July that “it remains to be seen” whether Ukraine ever will “meet [the] criteria” for membership in the trans-Atlantic alliance, but Russian officials want NATO to close the door on the idea.

“We would like to emphasize that the nonexpansion of NATO and preventing the deployment of weapons systems near the Russian border that threaten Russia’s security will be front and center during the upcoming talks with the United States and NATO,” Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Saturday. “This is something those who until now have been unable to grasp Russia’s position must understand.”

NATO leaders agreed in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine should have the option at some point of joining the alliance, but Russia has invaded both of those countries in the intervening years, creating territorial disputes that short-circuit using the trans-Atlantic alliance’s collective defense guarantee to avert a conflict.

“Yet the Kremlin has, in effect, exercised … a veto,” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer wrote in October. “Allies appear unenthusiastic … because there is no good answer to the question ‘if Ukraine joins NATO tomorrow, does the alliance then find itself at war with Russia?’”

Putin has sought to pose that question even in the absence of any serious progress toward Ukrainian membership in NATO.

We demand an official withdrawal of the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest summit relating to Ukraine and Georgia’s [intentions] to join NATO,” Ryabkvo said. “When we say that further expansion of NATO needs to be prevented, when we say that NATO facilities and all kinds of activities that are provocative for Russia need to be rolled back to the positions that existed in 1997 when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed, we are not bluffing.”


I saw heaven opened. And there was a white horse. He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written, that no one knows but He Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. His name is called The Word of God.  (Revelation 19:11-13 Modern English Version)

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