An existential threat to the European security architecture?

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To understand Russia, you have to understand our history. Over the centuries, our country has suffered attacks from all sides. We had to become a warrior nation defending our homeland.

The gravest wounds of the invasion of the Nazis and their henchmen in the Soviet Union have not yet been healed in the memory of the Russian people. We know the cost of human sacrifice, having sacrificed 27 million lives on the altar of victory, not only for our good but also for the liberation of all of Europe from the Nazi plague.

During the Cold War, Western countries called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and a source of constant international tension. So when it ceased to exist, a sort of golden age of universal love and friendship was to follow.

To understand Russia, you have to understand our history. Over the centuries, our country has suffered attacks from all sides. We had to become a warrior nation defending our homeland.

The gravest wounds of the invasion of the Nazis and their henchmen in the Soviet Union have not yet been healed in the memory of the Russian people. We know the cost of human sacrifice, having sacrificed 27 million lives on the altar of victory, not only for our good but also for the liberation of all of Europe from the Nazi plague.

During the Cold War, Western countries called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and a source of constant international tension. So when it ceased to exist, a sort of golden age of universal love and friendship was to follow.

However, this did not happen. Romantic illusions have been dispelled. The United States immediately began to create a new world order with Russia placed on the periphery. While preparing for the unification of Germany, we were assured that NATO was not planning to move east. When such a movement inevitably began in 1999, our counterparts asserted that these assurances were just nice, friendly conversations between then-US Secretary of State James Baker and Mikhail Gorbachev, without any presumed legal obligation.

We have seen five waves of NATO expansion since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. At various events at NATO headquarters in Brussels since 2005, Russian representatives have been told that the main threat to the alliance comes from the south, where Iran is located. To our simple question “So why are you heading east towards the borders of Russia?” We never received a clear answer.

NATO’s military activity has intensified considerably in recent years. Around 40 major military exercises are organized each year near Russian territory. The United States has dramatically increased its strategic flights along Russian borders, during which it launches cruise missiles at targets inside Russia. We have followed an upsurge in alliance naval activities in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. To put it in perspective, according to the latest assessments from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the combined military spending of NATO countries is at least 25 times more than Russia’s defense budget.

NATO’s agenda is now focused on the accession of Ukraine and Georgia. With the “crawling” of the alliance on Ukrainian territory, the threat to the security of Russia increases sharply, because missile systems with minimum flight time to our country and other destabilizing weapons can be deployed there.

We must add here the incessant dismantling of the collective security system put in place after the Second World War. Despite our calls, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Open Skies Treaty. Why? What did Washington win?

The result of the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty was Russia’s forced decision to develop hypersonic weapons capable of penetrating any missile defense system, in order to maintain strategic stability. Now they keep telling us that Russian weapons are creating a dangerous situation. And this despite the fact that the American “defensive” MK 41 launchers, which are located in Romania and are to be deployed in Poland, can be adapted to launch offensive Tomahawk missiles. When we express our concern about this, we are actually being told, “Just trust us.”

In other words, the United States’ policy towards our country is like something called “the squeezing of a spring.” Either it breaks or it comes back. What to do in such circumstances? Ignore them? Withdraw our troops deep in Russia, beyond the Urals?

As for the deluge of criticism from NATO countries regarding Russian “aggression” against Ukraine and Georgia, it is quite predictable. Our actions disrupted plans for further encroachment on Russian borders.

The situation is extremely dangerous. No one should doubt our determination to defend our security. Everything has its limits. If our partners continue to build military-strategic realities that endanger the existence of our country, we will be forced to create similar vulnerabilities for them. We have reached the point where we have no more room to retreat. The military exploration of Ukraine by NATO member states is an existential threat to Russia.

Urgent action is needed. The principle of equal and indivisible security must be restored. This means that no state has the right to strengthen its security at the expense of others. With political will, this can be achieved through the development of serious long-term and legally binding security guarantees.

We want to have confidence in the future, and for that we need the United States and the other NATO countries to commit not to further expand the alliance and not to deploy weapons systems. which pose a threat to Russia on the territories of neighboring countries, both members and non-members of NATO.

It is important that Washington joins Russia’s unilateral moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range ground missiles. Our proposals to remove the exercise areas from the Russia-NATO contact line as well as those aimed at increasing predictability of actions and reducing dangerous military activity require careful consideration.

Russia’s draft security guarantees were published in an attempt to avoid dishonest speculation. They do not infringe on the security of the United States and its NATO allies. On the contrary, they create the conditions for de-escalation in Europe, a restoration of confidence and an intensification of interactions in order to solve global problems, such as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the non- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, reconstruction of national economies and resolution of serious issues relating to climate change.

European security is now at a crossroads. How events develop further depends on the readiness of our Western colleagues for substantive dialogue, without delaying tactics or obscurity. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said, we do not demand special exclusive conditions for ourselves. The Russian initiative to conclude legally binding agreements on security guarantees aims to ensure equal and reliable security for all.

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