From Izvestia, Dec. 2, 2021, p. 2. Condensed text:

Russia intends to demand legal guarantees that NATO will not expand eastward. [Russian President] Vladimir Putin said this on Dec. 1 at a ceremony to receive the credentials of [new foreign] ambassadors [to Russia]. . . .

This time, Vladimir Putin accepted credentials from 20 new ambassadors, including from Brazil, Spain, India, Slovakia and Nigeria.

In his opening remarks, the Russian president stressed that Moscow is focused on mutually beneficial and equal cooperation in the international arena, which is key to addressing complex global problems such as fighting terrorism, organized crime and climate change. Furthermore, close cooperation is needed to effectively fight the COVID‑19 pandemic.

However, so far, the international community continues to act erratically and cannot unite to solve important problems, the president said. What’s more, certain countries are even trying to contain Russia’s development, escalating tensions near its borders and applying sanctions pressure, Vladimir Putin stressed.

“Suffice it to mention how close NATO military infrastructure has moved to our borders. This is extremely serious to us,” Vladimir Putin said. “In this situation, we are taking appropriate military-technical measures. However, to reiterate, we are not threatening anyone and, given the actual state of affairs, it is irresponsible, to say the least, to accuse us of that – i.e., to pin the blame on someone else.”

In the current situation, Russia is determined, in dialogue with the US and its allies, to press for concrete agreements precluding NATO’s further eastward expansion or the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to Russia in close proximity to its territory.

“We propose opening substantive talks on this issue,” Vladimir Putin said. “I would like to note that we need legal guarantees, since our Western colleagues have failed to keep their verbal promises in that regard. In particular, everyone knows about the verbal assurances that there would be no NATO expansion to the East, but they did exactly the opposite. Essentially, Russia’s legitimate security concerns were ignored and continue to be ignored.”

In the current situation and given the current attitude toward Russia on the part of the US and a number of other NATO members, it is unlikely that such guarantees will be provided, said Yury Rogulyov, director of Moscow State University’s Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for US Studies.

“However, if the issue is viewed from a somewhat different angle, I believe NATO members, including the US, realize that Ukraine’s or Georgia’s accession to NATO would be fraught with huge controversy and unpleasant consequences,” the expert told Izvestia.

He said NATO members would never acknowledge that officially, since they proceed from the premise that the admission process is voluntary. In other words, [aspiring] countries themselves express the wish [to join NATO], and they cannot be barred [from joining] if they meet all admission criteria, Rogulyov explained.

In order to provide legal guarantees, the military-political bloc would have to amend its charter and abolish the so-called “open doors” principle, Pavel Sharikov, research associate with the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told Izvestia.

“According to [the NATO Charter], countries may independently initiate official procedures and apply for [NATO] membership. NATO does not force anyone to join,” the expert added. “All the eastward expansions that took place in previous years were actually initiated by those countries.”

Meanwhile, readers will recall that Russia had previously called for dialogue on imposing a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific and other regions, including Europe. This topic has become highly relevant since the bilateral Russian-US Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate- and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) expired in 2019 [see Vol. 71, No. 31, pp. 3‑7].

Washington may now deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles on the territory of its NATO allies – specifically, in Romania and Poland, where Aegis Ashore [missile defense] systems with MK‑41 launchers have already been deployed. Earlier, Russia repeatedly stated that these launchers are capable of firing [intermediate-range] Tomahawk missiles.

Russia is also concerned by the prospect of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles appearing on Japanese soil. Intermediate-range missiles, with ranges of 1,000 to 5,500 kilometers, can, for instance, deliver a strike against bases of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in Siberia from Japanese territory, military expert Viktor Litovkin earlier told Izvestia.