Russia is not making ultimatums in its negotiations with the West but needs concrete answers regarding its security concerns, the Kremlin said on Wednesday as talks took place with NATO in Brussels.
Russia began laying out its demands for security guarantees in Europe to NATO’s 30 allies following intense talks with the United States in Geneva where the two sides’ positions remained poles apart.
“We are not negotiating from a position of strength, there is not and nor can there be any place for ultimatums here,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“The situation has simply reached such a critical point in terms of pan-European security and the national interests of our country…that we cannot delay further and the concerns we have voiced need concrete answers.”
Russia’s meetings with the West are part of an effort to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War, triggered primarily by a confrontation over Ukraine, which the United States says Russia may be planning to invade. Moscow dismisses such claims.
Peskov said Russia was ready to negotiate directly with Ukraine provided existing agreements were fulfilled. He said live-fire exercises with troops and tanks that Russian forces held near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday were not linked to the NATO talks.
NATO allies say that many of Russia’s demands, laid out in two draft treaties in December, are unacceptable, including calls to scale back the alliance’s activities to 1990s levels and promise not to take in new members.
Asked about possible Finnish membership of NATO, Peskov said NATO was an “instrument of confrontation” and any enlargement of it was a concern to Russia.
Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine has rekindled debate in Finland about whether it should join NATO, and the Nordic country has said it reserves the option of seeking membership at any time. Neutral Sweden has also strengthened ties with the alliance.