Russia’s top 4 priorities right now

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and President Biden shake hands during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. Russia, the United States, and NATO allies will meet this week to discuss Moscow’s demands for Western security guarantees as well as concerns over recent Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool, AP

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Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool, AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and President Biden shake hands during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. Russia, the United States, and NATO allies will meet this week to discuss Russia’s demands for Western security guarantees as well as concerns over the recent increase in Russian troops near Ukraine.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool, AP

MOSCOW — First U.S. and Russian diplomats faced off in Geneva. NATO then received a Russian delegation to Brussels. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sponsored talks in Vienna on Thursday.

Russia courted all this attention by massing some 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, raising fears of a Russian invasion. Analysts see Russia’s buildup in an effort to press the U.S., its European allies, and make them accept a number of “security guarantees” that Moscow seeks.

What is Russia looking for? And why is it so difficult for the U.S. and its European allies to reach an agreement with Moscow? Here’s a guide.

1. Russia wants a guarantee Ukraine can never join NATO

Russia’s main demand is a commitment from NATO to end its further expansion into former Soviet republics — especially Ukraine. Russia wants NATO to rescind a 2008 promise that Ukraine could someday join the defense alliance. Many observers believe it is unlikely that Ukraine will join NATO as it does not meet the membership requirements. Moscow doesn’t think so. After bilateral talks with the U.S. ended Monday, Russia’s chief negotiator Sergei Ryabkov stated that “we don’t trust each other.” We need legally binding, ironclad, waterproof and bulletproof guarantees. These are not guarantees. These are not guarantees. Guarantees. All the words -‘shall, must’- all that needs to be included. “

Russia’s reasoning: President Vladimir Putin views Ukraine as an extension of what he calls “historical Russia” — a part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, and within Moscow’s “sphere of influence” today. The threat of Ukraine’s westward turn after a street revolution ousted the country’s pro-Russian president in 2014 was the driving force behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea later that year. Russia supported separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas, fueling civil war and preventing Ukraine from joining the Western alliance.

NATO’s counter: The U.S. argues that countries have a right to choose their own alliances and NATO has a long-standing “open door policy” for potential membership. “NATO has never been expanded by force, coercion, or subversion. After a meeting between NATO officials and Russian officials in Brussels, Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, stated Wednesday that countries have the sovereign right to decide to join NATO. Russia’s actions are making the idea of NATO membership more appealing to Ukrainians, according to opinion polls. However, it is unlikely that Ukraine will be able to meet these requirements in the near future.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Russia’s Deputy Minister Alexander Grushko arrived at the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on Wednesday. To try and bridge differences regarding the future of Ukraine, senior NATO and Russian officials met.

Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP

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Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (center), and Russia’s Deputy Minister Alexander Grushko arrived at the NATO-Russia Council, which took place in Brussels on Wednesday. To try and bridge differences regarding the future of Ukraine, senior NATO and Russian officials met.

Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP

2. Russia wants NATO arms out of Eastern Europe

The draft proposals on security that Russia sent to Western powers in December would ban NATO from deploying its weapons and forces in countries in Central and Eastern Europe that joined the alliance after 1997. This would mean that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Poland 1072453900, Russia’s draft proposals on security sent to Western powers in December would prohibit NATO from deploying its weapons and forces in Central and Eastern Europe after .

Russia’s reasoning: Moscow sees NATO’s addition of former communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe beginning in 1997 as violating a core promise by the United States when the Soviet ARMY peacefully withdrew from Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Putin believes that the West used Russian weakness to expand the alliance in spite of multiple Russian objections. “Where is it written down? Putin recalled the decisions of NATO to expand eastward over the years. “They would tell us. “It’s not written on paper.” Then, get lost with your worries. That’s how it has been for years. Putin seems to think Russia can dictate new terms and rewrite history of the Cold War’s end.

NATO’s counter: U.S. officials have made clear they believe even Russia knows this demand is unrealistic. Accepting Russia’s proposal would require redrawing Europe’s map after the Cold War. It would also place Russia’s security needs above those of entire swathes of Europe once under Soviet Soviet control. Officials from the West also deny the claim that NATO promised not to expand, and instead blame Russia for allowing NATO to increase its deployments in new member countries. “NATO never even had any forces on its eastern edge because we didn’t feel the need to have troops close to Russia until Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and led NATO members to be concerned that they might keep going into NATO territory,” Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Tuesday.

This photo taken from video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows Russian military vehicles move during drills in Crimea, April 22, 2021.

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

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Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

This photo taken from video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows Russian military vehicles move during drills in Crimea, April 22, 2021.

Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

3. Russia wants a ban on NATO missiles within striking distance

Russia says it wants a ban on intermediate-range missiles in Europe — in effect, reinstating a Cold War-era treaty abandoned in 2019 by the Trump administration, which accused Russia of repeated violations. The Kremlin believes that the Biden administration will be open to a deal and wants to combine arms control with other grievances against NATO expansion. Are we going to put our rockets close to the American borders? During a December press conference, Putin told a Western journalist that “no we are not”. “It’s America with its rockets coming right to our doorstep. “

Russia’s reasoning: While Ukraine could be a long way from NATO membership today, Russia has nervously watched as NATO has demonstrated it can deepen its involvement in Ukraine — providing weapons and training — without the former Soviet republic becoming a member. Russia’s president made it clear that he sees a day when NATO missiles will be stored on Ukrainian soil, within minutes of Moscow. Putin stated that this was a serious problem for us, a threat to our security.

NATO’s counter: This could be an area of compromise. For starters, some Democratic lawmakers opposed the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

4. Russia wants autonomy for eastern Ukraine

Russia says Ukraine must meet its obligations under 2015 agreements to end THE fighting between Ukraine’s army and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed some 15,000 people. The Minsk peace agreement, also known as the Minsk agreements has been stalled. Ukrainians are being killed almost every week but it allowed Russia to maintain its fiction that it is not involved in the war in Donbas. The Minsk agreements would also give additional autonomy to the Donbas’ Russian-speaking regions.

Russia’s reasoning: Moscow has long believed the U.S. calls the shots in Kyiv and the U.S. has expressed support for the Minsk accords as a path toward deescalation. It’s also a way for Moscow to ensure rights for Russian speakers living in the Donbas and give the Kremlin leverage over Ukrainian affairs moving forward.

NATO’s counter: The U.S. supports the Minsk agreements. Kyiv is less enthusiastic. As signed, the deal rewards Russia for provoking the conflict — meddling which Russia denies. Washington and Kyiv argue that Moscow also has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement.

Michele Kelemen contributed to this explainer from Washington, D.C.

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