The News-Times

Kremlin expects answer on security guarantees soon


MOSCOW — The Kremlin said Friday that it expects the United States to respond next month to Moscow’s request for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the West on Thursday to “immediatel­y” meet Russia’s demand, accusing the U.S. and its allies of maintainin­g a military presence “on the threshold of our home.”

Last week, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployment­s in Central and Eastern Europe.

“To discuss de-escalation, we expect our opponents in Washington to provide specific answers to our proposals in January,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a Friday conference call with reporters.

Moscow presented its demand amid soaring tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that has stoked fears of a possible invasion. U.S. President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call earlier this month that Russia will face “severe consequenc­es” if it attacks Ukraine.

Russia has denied plans to launch an attack but has described a NATO expansion and weapons deployment in Ukraine as a “red line.”

During a marathon annual news conference on Thursday, Putin said U.S-Russia talks set to start in Geneva next month were a “positive” move, but he warned that Moscow expects the discussion to produce quick results.

However, the U.S. and its allies have said they won’t give Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants. A key principle of NATO is that membership is open to any qualifying country. American officials are conferring with European allies in advance of the Geneva talks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday that his country must be part of any NATO security talks with Russia.

“Euro-Atlantic security is at stake in Ukraine, therefore, Ukraine should be part of security consultati­ons on the matter,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “We support the idea of the U.S., the EU, NATO talking to Russia as long as the primary topic is ending the internatio­nal armed conflict, Russia’s war on Ukraine.”

Earlier this week, Putin warned that Russia will have to take “adequate military-technical measures” if the West continues its “aggressive” course.

On Friday, he hailed another successful test of a new Russian hypersonic missile, saying that a salvo of Zircon cruise missiles was fired “flawlessly” early Friday.

“This is a big event for the country and a major step in strengthen­ing Russia’s security and enhancing its defense capability,” Putin said in a video call with officials.

Friday’s launch was the latest in a series of tests of Zircon, which Putin said is capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of more than 620 miles. The new missile is set to enter service with the Russian navy next year and arm its cruisers, frigates and submarines.

Last month, Putin voiced concern that NATO could potentiall­y use the Ukrainian territory for the deployment of missiles that would be capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes and said that Zircon would give Russia a comparable capability.

“It would also need just five minutes to reach those who issue orders,” Putin said.

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