Japan backs U.S. during Ukraine crisis

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia warns Japan to stay out of Ukraine crisis
  • The growing tensions have global diplomatic ramifications, most recently evidenced by President Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with his Japanese counterpart.
  • “Japan indicated that it — that the United States and Japan are closely aligned on concerns about Russian threats,” the senior administration official said.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s face-to-face conversation with Lavrov in Geneva. That dialogue produced a commitment to continue discussing possible diplomatic resolutions,
  • Russian officials also reiterated the demand most intolerable to the trans-Atlantic alliance: their insistence that the United States and Western Europe cut their security ties to Eastern European members of NATO, who joined the bloc to seek protection from potential Russian threats

Read the original article by clicking here.

Russian expert says Cuba, Venezuela too far or too outdated. But there is another option to pressure the West

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Cuba, Venezuela or both? Russia wants USA to know what it feels like to be surrounded by NATO
  • Military expert Konstantin Sivkov believes that the deployment of Russian arms in Latin America will not give Russia any military advantages. Instead, it will simply become a symmetrical response to the American threat near the borders of the Russian Federation. In accordance with the state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence, Russia still limits the conditions, in which it can be the first country to strike a nuclear blow.
  • “In the event of a nuclear conflict, most likely, it is the Americans that will be the first to attack,” the expert believes.
  • In this case, a preemptive strike makes no sense. Therefore, the expert believes, the probable deployment of Russian weapons in Latin America will have political, rather than military significance.
  • According to Kartapolov, Russia does not need to deploy military bases in either Cuba or Venezuela, since the Russian army has hypersonic missiles in service. A ship or a submarine armed with Zircons can go on combat missions from anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean and then leave, Kartapolov said.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Can NATO and Russia come to an agreement over Ukraine?

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • NATO, Russia meet for first time in 2 years for ‘serious and direct exchange’ over Ukraine
  • The talks are an effort to reach a diplomatic solution to de-escalate tensions over the Ukraine question.
  • The United States met directly with Russia for seven hours on Monday in Geneva over Ukraine.
  • Russia wants what it calls security guarantees from Washington and NATO, including a legally binding agreement that NATO won’t continue to expand further east — something the United States and NATO are unwilling to do.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Russia gives list of impossible demands to NATO

Ezekiel 38:1-3 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of[a] Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of[b] Meshek and Tubal

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia’s Putin to NATO: Commit Suicide or Face All-Out War
  • The Russian demands, which effectively require NATO to commit suicide, are so obviously outrageous and unmeetable that Western analysts are split over interpreting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives. Some say he is using the impossible list of demands as a pretext to invade Ukraine. Others think he is playing a weak hand to try to divide the West and reorder Europe’s security architecture in Russia’s favor
  • “The Russian leader… believes he has a window of opportunity to act. He is worried that the risk of Kiev joining NATO will increase if a stronger U.S. leader… comes to power
  • Westerners do not seem to understand what is at stake. They think that only the fate of Ukraine is being decided, which is of less concern to them than that of Armenia…. They resemble those who in 1939 believed that Hitler’s demands would be limited to Danzig.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Putin says Russia has ‘nowhere to retreat’ over Ukraine

By Mark Trevelyan

(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had no room to retreat in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine and would be forced into a tough response unless the West dropped its “aggressive line.”

Putin addressed the remarks to military officials as Russia pressed for an urgent U.S. and NATO response to proposals it made last week for a binding set of security guarantees from the West.

“What the U.S. is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep… And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Do they think we’ll just watch idly?” Putin said.

“If the aggressive line of our Western colleagues continues, we will take adequate military-technical response measures and react harshly to unfriendly steps.”

Putin did not spell out the nature of these measures but his phrasing mirrored that used previously by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who has warned that Russia may redeploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to what it sees as NATO plans to do the same.

Russia rejects Ukrainian and U.S. charges that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops poised within reach of the border.

It says it needs pledges from the West – including a promise not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe – because its security is threatened by Ukraine’s growing ties with the Western alliance and the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelenskiy said on Friday that he was ready to meet Russia for “direct talks, tête-à-tête, we don’t mind in what format”. But Moscow has said repeatedly it sees no point in such a meeting without clarity on what the agenda would be.

A Kremlin statement said Putin stressed in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that reconvening the four-power Normandy group – which brings together the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – would require concrete steps by Kyiv to implement existing peace agreements. Ukraine says it is Russia and its proxies who are refusing to engage.

With Western powers keen to show Russia they are solid in their support of Ukraine and NATO, Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz also spoke by phone with Putin.

U.S. SUPPLIES

Karen Donfried, the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, in a briefing with reporters, said Washington was prepared to engage with Moscow via three channels – bilaterally, through the NATO-Russia Council that last met in 2019, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In the meantime, she said, the United States would continue to send military equipment and supplies to Ukraine in the weeks and months ahead – something that has antagonized Moscow.

“As President (Joe) Biden has told President Putin, should Russia further invade Ukraine, we will provide additional defensive materials to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already in the process of providing,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would seek meaningful discussions with Moscow early next year.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu alleged that more than 120 U.S. private military contractors were active in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, and said they were preparing a “provocation” involving chemical substances.

He offered no evidence in support of the claim, which Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described as “completely false”.

Throughout the crisis, Russia has veered between harsh rhetoric, calls for dialogue and dire warnings, with Ryabkov repeatedly comparing the situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war.

Many of its demands, including for a block on NATO membership for Ukraine and the withdrawal of U.S. and other allied troops from Eastern Europe, are seen as non-starters by Washington and its partners.

But rejecting them out of hand would risk closing off any space for dialogue and further fueling the crisis.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov, Andrew Osborn, Olzhas Auyezov, Polina Devitt, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Idrees Ali in Washington, Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Russia presses for urgent U.S. response on security guarantees

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it urgently needed a response from the United States on its sweeping security demands and again warned of a possible Russian military response unless it saw political action to assuage its concerns.

Moscow, which has unnerved the West with a troop buildup near Ukraine, last week unveiled a wish list of security proposals it wants to negotiate, including a promise NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

Washington has said some of Russia’s proposals are obviously unacceptable, but that the United States will respond some time this week with more concrete proposals on the format of any talks.

Emily Horne, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Yuriy Ushakov, to stress the United States is prepared to communicate through multiple channels including bilateral engagement.

Sullivan “made clear that any dialogue must be based on reciprocity and address our concerns about Russia’s actions, and take place in full coordination with our European allies and partners. He also noted that substantive progress can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation,” she said.

Konstantin Gavrilov, a Russian diplomat in Vienna, said that relations between Moscow and NATO had reached a “moment of truth”.

“The conversation needs to be serious and everyone in NATO understands perfectly well despite their strength and power that concrete political action needs to be taken, otherwise the alternative is a military-technical and military response from Russia,” he was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

The U.S. response is likely to shape Moscow’s calculus over Ukraine, which has become the main flashpoint in East-West relations.

The United States and Ukraine say Russia may be preparing an invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbor. Russia denies that and says it is Ukraine’s growing relationship with NATO that has caused the standoff to escalate. It has compared it to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow had so far received no response from the United States.

“I think they’ll try to turn this into a slow-moving process, but we need it to be urgent, because the situation is very difficult, it is acute, it tends to become more complicated,” he was quoted by RIA as saying.

The Kremlin said it was still too early to assess the West’s response, but that information from “various sources” about a readiness to discuss the ideas was positive.

Asked separately about a Belarusian proposal to host Russian nuclear weapons in the event of similar deployments in its vicinity by the West, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had numerous options.

“It’s no secret the deployment of different types of armaments near our borders that could pose a danger would require corresponding steps to be taken to balance the situation. There are all sorts of options here,” he said.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Maria Kiselyova and Dmitry Antonov; additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; editing by Mark Trevelyan, William Maclean)

Russia demands NATO roll back from East Europe and stay out of Ukraine

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said on Friday it wanted a legally binding guarantee that NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, part of a wish list of security guarantees it wants to negotiate with the West.

Moscow for the first time laid out in detail demands that it says are essential for lowering tensions in Europe and defusing a crisis over Ukraine, which Western countries have accused Russia of sizing up for a potential invasion after building up troops near the border. Russia has denied planning an invasion.

The demands contain elements – such as an effective Russian veto on NATO membership for Ukraine – that the West has already ruled out.

Others would imply the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe and the withdrawal of multinational NATO battalions from Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that were once in the Soviet Union.

In Washington, a senior administration official said the United States was prepared to discuss the proposals but added: “That said, there are some things in those documents that the Russians know are unacceptable.”

The official said Washington would respond some time next week with more concrete proposals on the format of any talks.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Washington would talk to its allies. “We will not compromise the key principles on which European security is built, including that all countries have the right to decide their own future and foreign policy, free from outside interference,” she said.

NATO diplomats told Reuters that Russia cannot have a veto on further alliance expansion and NATO has the right to decide its own military posture.

“Russia is not a member of NATO and doesn’t decide on matters related to NATO,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lukasz Jasina said.

‘SMOKESCREEN’

Some Western political analysts suggested Russia was knowingly presenting unrealistic demands which it knew would not be met to provide a diplomatic distraction while maintaining military pressure on Ukraine.

“Something is very wrong with this picture, the pol(itical) side appears to be a smokescreen,” Michael Kofman, a Russia specialist at Virginia-based research organization CNA, wrote on Twitter.

Sam Greene, professor of Russian politics at King’s College London, said President Vladimir Putin was “drawing a line around the post-Soviet space and planting a ‘keep out’ sign”.

“It’s not meant to be a treaty: it’s a declaration,” he said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean this is a prelude to war. It’s a justification for keeping Moscow’s hair-trigger stance, in order to keep Washington and others off balance.”

Presenting Moscow’s demands, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia and the West must start from a clean sheet in rebuilding relations.

“The line pursued by the United States and NATO over recent years to aggressively escalate the security situation is absolutely unacceptable and extremely dangerous,” he told reporters.

Ryabkov said Russia was not willing to put up with the current situation any longer, and urged Washington to come up with a constructive response fast.

He said Russia was ready to start talks as soon as Saturday, with Geneva a possible venue, but Russian news agency TASS quoted him as saying later that Moscow was extremely disappointed by the signals coming from Washington and NATO.

TROOP BUILD-UP

Moscow handed over its proposals to the United States this week as tensions rose over the Russian troop build-up near Ukraine.

It says it is responding to what it sees as threats to its own security from Ukraine’s increasingly close relations with NATO and aspirations to become an alliance member, even though there is no imminent prospect of Kyiv being allowed to join.

The Russian proposals were set out in two documents – a draft agreement with NATO countries and a draft treaty with the United States, both published by the foreign ministry.

The first, among other points, would require Russia and NATO not to deploy additional troops and weapons outside the countries where they were in May 1997 – before the accession to NATO of any of the former communist states in East Europe that for decades were dominated by Moscow. It would mean NATO abandoning any military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The treaty with the United States would prevent Moscow and Washington from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories. That would mean an end to NATO’s so-called nuclear-sharing arrangements, where European NATO members provide aircraft capable of delivering U.S. nuclear weapons.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn, Vladimir Soldatkin and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow, Robin Emmott in Brussels, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw, Steve Holland in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt aboard Air Force One; Writing by Mark Trevelyan, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Russia demands rescinding of NATO promise to Ukraine and Georgia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia demanded on Friday that NATO rescind a 2008 commitment to Ukraine and Georgia that they would one day become members and said the alliance should promise not to deploy weapons in countries bordering Russia that could threaten its security.

The demands were spelt out by the Russian foreign ministry in its fullest statement yet on the security guarantees that President Vladimir Putin says he wants to obtain from the United States and its allies.

“In the fundamental interests of European security, it is necessary to formally disavow the decision of the 2008 NATO Bucharest summit that ‘Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members’,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine is at the center of a crisis in East-West relations as it accuses Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops in preparation for a possible large-scale military offensive.

Russia denies planning any attack but accuses Ukraine and the United States of destabilizing behavior, and has said it needs security guarantees for its own protection.

The ministry statement followed a video call between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden this week that was dominated by discussion of Ukraine.

The foreign ministry said Moscow was proposing a series of steps to reduce tensions, including to agree safe distances between Russian and NATO warships and planes, especially in the Baltic and Black Seas.

Moscow called for the renewing of a regular defense dialogue with the United States and NATO and urged Washington to join a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe.

(Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry)

Russia keeps tensions high over Ukraine while waiting for next Biden move

By Tom Balmforth and Andrey Ostroukh

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia kept up a barrage of hostile rhetoric towards Ukraine on Thursday and compared the crisis there to the most dangerous moment of the Cold War as it waited for U.S. President Joe Biden to invite it to possible talks with NATO countries.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of moving heavy artillery towards the front line of fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the former Soviet republic and failing to engage in a peace process.

“Negotiations on a peaceful settlement have practically hit a dead end,” ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters, referring to the seven-year conflict between Ukrainian and separatist forces in the eastern Donbass region.

The ministry’s Twitter feed, quoting Zakharova, said: “With the support of NATO countries pumping the country with weapons, Kyiv is building up its contingent on the line of contact in Donbass.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov agreed with a reporter who suggested East-West tensions over Ukraine could turn into a re-run of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war.

“You know, it really could come to that,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. “If things continue as they are, it is entirely possible by the logic of events to suddenly wake up and see yourself in something similar.”

The comments came two days after a video call between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin that was intended to help defuse the crisis over Ukraine.

They signaled that Moscow has an interest in keeping tensions high while waiting for the next move from Biden, who has said he plans to hold follow-up talks involving Russia and NATO countries.

Ukraine, which seeks to join NATO, says it fears an invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops gathered near its border. Moscow says its posture is purely defensive.

“FIGHTING BY OURSELVES”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv expects to be supported by Western military allies even if the United States does not send troops there, an action that Biden has ruled out.

“We will be fighting this war by ourselves,” Kuleba told investors in London. “We know how to fight. We do not need foreign troops fighting for us. But we will appreciate anything that can strengthen our army in terms of military supplies.”

Ukraine’s military accused the Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country of six new violations of a broken-down 2020 ceasefire on Thursday, three of them involving weapons banned under earlier peace deals that Moscow and Kyiv say they are trying to revive.

Interfax quoted a Ukrainian official as saying Kyiv was proposing a humanitarian exchange of up to 60 prisoners by New Year.

In Tuesday’s video call, Biden voiced concern about Russia’s military build-up and told Putin that Moscow would face serious economic consequences if it invaded.

Putin has said talk of an invasion is “provocative” and accused Ukraine and NATO of fanning tensions.

Biden said the next day he hoped for an announcement by Friday of high-level meetings with Russia and major NATO allies to discuss Moscow’s concerns and the possibility of “bringing down the temperature along the eastern front.”

Russia’s Ryabkov described this as a “unilateral” statement, implying the U.S. side had not discussed it with Moscow.

Asked if Russia would object to the participation of other NATO members, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We cannot say, because there is no understanding of how all this will be arranged.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber, Natalia Zinets, Matthias Williams, Elizabeth Howcroft and Marc Jones; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Andrew Heavens)

Biden says putting U.S. troops on ground in Ukraine is ‘not on the table’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday putting American troops on the ground in Ukraine to deter a potential Russian invasion was “not on the table” and he hoped to announce a meeting with Russia and other NATO countries by Friday.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, Biden said he had made it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his nearly two-hour virtual meeting on Tuesday that there would be economic consequences like none before if Russia invades Ukraine, and he is confident Putin got the message.

Biden said he hoped that by Friday there would be an announcement of high-level meetings with Russia and at least four major NATO allies to “discuss the future of Russia’s concerns relative to NATO writ large” and whether or not accommodations could be worked out as it related to “bringing down the temperature along the eastern front.”

Biden said the United States had a moral and legal obligation to defend NATO allies if they are attacked, but that obligation did not extend to Ukraine.

“That is not on the table,” Biden said when asked if U.S. troops would be used to stop a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall)