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Unlike in 1990, Russia still has many options if NATO ignores its peace offer and moves further into the former Soviet space.

As NATO moves relentlessly towards the Russian border, Moscow has made the Western military bloc a security proposal that is in reality nothing more than an ultimatum: no further military advances eastwards, or Russia will be forced to act on behalf of its national interests .

February 9, 1990 will forever be remembered by historians as “the day of shame” for relations between NATO and Russia. On that day, during the glasnost talks on German reunification, the American foreign minister James Baker assured Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev that the western military bloc would not move “an inch to the east” to the borders of Russia.

The extent of the deception contained in that empty promise is easy to see today, as the number of NATO members has grown to 30 states since the Cold War era. In 2004, the former Soviet states Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined NATO at the Istanbul Summit; Albania and Croatia became members in 2009, while North Macedonia joined in 2020.

The western military bloc already borders Russia’s northwestern border in the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia. But now that the political powder keg of Ukraine is actively seeking membership in NATO, Moscow has issued something like an ultimatum in which the carrot is simply maintaining peace between the world’s nuclear superpowers.

Will the US-led organization bite? As far as NATO is concerned, the draft security agreement states: The United States of America will take measures to prevent further eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to refuse the accession of the former USSR republics to the alliance.

With a view to the chaos in Ukraine, the draft emphasizes the commitment of Washington and its allies not to establish military bases in non-NATO former Soviet states, not to use their infrastructure for military activities, and not to develop bilateral military cooperation with them.

Moscow’s offer comes amid misleading and dangerous claims by Western politicians that Russia is planning to station troops in Ukraine, possibly as early as Christmas, utterances that are unfounded. In fact, it was the West that increased tension in the region.

Just last month, US bombers simulated a nuclear strike against Russia, with some of the planes moving within 20 kilometers of the Russian border during the exercise, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

“We are seeing a significant increase in the activity of US strategic bombers near the Russian borders. Last month they flew to the borders of the Russian Federation about 30 times, which is 2.5 times more than in the same period last year, “said Shoigu in talks with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe, as Tass reported.

Meanwhile, US arms sales to Ukraine have accelerated at a worrying rate. Earlier this month, it was announced that Uncle Sam had delivered 30 Javelin anti-tank guided missile systems to Ukraine in October as part of annual military aid to defend against the perennial specter of Russian aggression.

Russian lawmakers have warned that the US decision to supply Kiev with deadly weapons is a blow to the Minsk Accords, a September 2014 ceasefire agreement in Donbas, and a threat to the security of all of Europe.

“Of course they have to [US-]Members of Congress understand that the delivery of deadly weapons to Ukraine would destroy the Minsk agreements the second they begin, ”Russian Defense and Security Committee deputy head Frants Klintsevich told RIA Novosti. “The granting of military aid of $ 350 million to Kiev is a direct invitation to Ukraine to start an all-out war in the Donbas.”

From the Kremlin’s point of view, the further militarization of Ukraine and Donbass by the US and its allies will almost make the question of whether or not Kiev is a full member of NATO a minor matter. Fatal errors can easily occur. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, like former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili who challenged fate in 2008 with a rash attack on the self-appointed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, killing several Russian peacekeepers, may be tempted to do something equally stupid and rash , especially if he thinks the West has his back.

Zelensky is certainly well aware – although at the time he was completely absorbed in work on a comedy – that Moscow responded to Tbilisi ‘s act of aggression with a large-scale invasion of Georgia by land, sea and air that the Russian military was in just completed four days.

Will Western leaders accept Russia’s proposal in the name of peace on the European continent and beyond? The US has not yet responded to the Russian offer, but there is no doubt that Moscow’s patience is running out.

“Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has received repeated assurances that NATO’s jurisdiction and military forces will not move an inch to the east,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Sakharova said earlier this month. “All of these promises have been forgotten and not fulfilled. The result is the current sad state of European security ”.

“We are convinced that the only option to resolve the current situation is to jointly develop long-term agreements that exclude further NATO advance eastward and the deployment of threatening weapon systems in close proximity to Russian territory,” she added.

Unlike 1990, Russia has many options if NATO ignores its peace offer and continues to penetrate the territory of the former Soviet Union, which is a clear red line for Moscow.

One possibility would be for Belarus to host Russian nuclear weapons on its territory, an offer formally made in November by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has his own dispute with the West after surviving a West-backed color revolution in the capital, Minsk had.

“I will suggest that [der russische Präsident Wladimir] Putin returns nuclear weapons to Belarus, ”Lukashenko said in a comment to RIA Novosti.

Lukashenko was reacting to the irresponsible remarks by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, who said that NATO’s nuclear weapons “offer European allies an effective nuclear protective shield”. This includes our Eastern allies, of course, and they are an important signal of Allied unity against any nuclear-armed enemy. Needless to say, this remark reassured Moscow little about NATO’s real intentions.

While it remains to be seen whether Russia would actually deploy its nuclear weapons in Belarus, Moscow has other strategic options that should encourage Europeans to ponder Russia’s proposal for long-term peace. With NATO advancing eastward, it’s not difficult to imagine Russia equipping its western border with some of the most terrifying weapons known to man. After all, it is not the Russia of 1990 or even 2004, when its ability to respond to the machinations of the West was not overly convincing.

Today, and especially after Russia’s breathtaking performance in Syria against the Islamic State, no self-respecting military leader would underestimate the power and effectiveness of the Russian military.

As part of an ambitious military reform initiative by Putin and his Defense Minister Shoigu, Russia now has a world-class military machine, equipped with the best technology in the world, including hypersonic missiles that are unparalleled anywhere in the world.

Even if this is certainly not Moscow’s first choice to keep the peace, should NATO reject its offer – which is in reality a friendly ultimatum – then one should be prepared for the Russian-European border to return to the level of Cold War fear, paranoia and militarization will fall back, which is really the last thing the world needs right now.


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