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Russia Reiterates Demands for NATO Non-Enlargement, Despite Pushback

Moscow has continued to demand that NATO commit to non-enlargement despite receiving pushback from the Allies in the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels on January 12.

The meeting comes during the week of high-level diplomatic talks between the Western states and Moscow over the Kremlin’s proposed “security guarantees,” which include among others disavowing the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit decision that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of the Alliance.

In a press conference after the NATO-Russia Council, Alexander Grushko, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Kremlin’s negotiator in the meeting reiterated that Moscow finds the Alliance’s further eastward expansion to be “absolutely unacceptable.” He insisted that NATO should end its open door policy and provide Russia with corresponding legal guarantees.

“They often say that it is [about] the freedom of choice… But the freedom of choice does not exist in international relations in a way our NATO partners understand it,” the Russian official said, slamming the Allied states for their stance that every nation shall be free to choose its own security arrangements.

He claimed that this freedom should not infringe on other country’s security interests, in this case those of Russia. The senior diplomat also accused NATO of applying the principle of the indivisibility of security “selectively” only to its members, while disregarding concerns of other states.

The Deputy Russian FM warned that “rational interests of strengthening European security require a clear understanding that the further expansion of the Alliance is fraught with risks that will outweigh any [benefits of the] decision on further expansion.”

Against this backdrop, he lauded the role of Russia “as a country that guarantees peace in the vast Euro-Atlantic area.” The Russian official insisted that NATO Allies should take this circumstance into account if they wish to cooperate with Moscow.

Arguing that Russia “makes an absolutely critical contribution to maintaining peace and stability in this region,” Grushko claimed Moscow’s “intervention allowed to establish peace, made it possible to translate the military scenario into the search for political solutions” in Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tajikistan.

In contrast, the senior Russian diplomat maintained that “the history of NATO, notwithstanding its defense character – [that] in quotation marks – it is a history of wars and interventions.”

Following the NATO-Russia Council meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Allies had restated their commitment to the open door policy and called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova and respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the three countries.

Ahead of the meeting, on January 10, the U.S. and Russian senior diplomats sat down for bilateral discussions in Geneva. Meanwhile, today, a broader format of the OSCE Permanent Council takes place in Vienna.

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