From, Jan. 17, 2022. Excerpts:

. . . The Kremlin has presented the US and NATO with ultimatums in the form of draft agreements [see Vol. 73, No. 51‑52, pp. 3‑9] that Moscow urged Washington and Brussels to sign “quickly.” Both documents envision meeting Russia’s principal claims. . . .

Missing the path to reason.

The daring cavalry attack on the existing European security system predictably failed. Apparently [Moscow] was counting on the fact that the West would get spooked by the prospect of a new big war in Ukraine, along with some sort of scary military-technical measures that Russia would take. The intentional rudeness that [Russian] diplomats began to resort to did not help, either.

In response, US and NATO representatives stated quite politely but just as firmly that they would not discuss the idea of turning the post-Soviet space into a zone of Russia’s privileged interests. Ditto for the possibility of other former Soviet republics, as well as NATO member countries, abandoning a part of their sovereignty. It was stated just as unequivocally that rolling back NATO infrastructure to the 1997 lines was out of the question. Neither Washington nor Brussels saw any reason why they should, at Moscow’s demand, abandon the fundamental defense organization principles that enabled them to endure the past cold war and even – wonder of wonders – win it.

By all indications, the West has accepted the prospect of a military confrontation with Russia and would like to put this confrontation within certain bounds – so as not to set the planet ablaze. So by and large, the US and NATO took a positive view of [Russia’s] initiatives on specific arms control measures, in particular [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

The Russian leader has repeatedly made such proposals, but Washington and Brussels have ignored them. They said that they do not trust Moscow after, according to them, it violated the Treaty on [the Elimination of] Intermediate- and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF). Curiously, this time it was Russia that had difficulty responding to the proposal to discuss mutual limits. “Russia was not in a position to agree on that proposal. They didn’t reject it, either. [But the Russian representatives] made it clear that they needed some time to come back to NATO with an answer,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Presumably, agreeing to any constructive proposals was not within the purview of the Russian delegation at talks with NATO, led by [Russian] Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin. Evidently, the [delegation’s] instructions were to scare [the West].

Meanwhile, the possibility of discussing specific military confidence-building and arms control measures gave the Kremlin the opportunity to save face. It seems that Moscow clearly missed this turn to the path to reason. “They have pulled out one element of our proposals – i.e., the initiative not to deploy offensive weapons near Russia’s borders. This is a good move, but separate from the main demand for NATO’s nonexpansion to the East, it would hardly have much practical value,” said Russian Foreign Minister [Sergei Lavrov].

Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov described the talks as unsuccessful. So it must be time to go ahead with “Plan B” – i.e., to implement measures that should intimidate the West [and] show to it how pathetic its Russia containment policy is. . . .

What caused the crisis?

First of all, it would be interesting to know the origin of the current crisis. Russian diplomatic and military officials keep talking nonstop about NATO forces advancing toward our country. At the same time, they are avoiding any of the specifics that Russia is purportedly eager and anxious to put on the negotiating table. In the end, Sergei Lavrov provided at least some of what could be hypothetically considered concrete data at his press conference: “NATO is building up its ground forces [and] aviation in territories adjacent to Ukraine. Exercises in the Black Sea, as well as their scale and number, have immeasurably increased lately, but there are many other things, too.*** The Americans, the Canadians [and] the British have stationed [their personnel] in the Baltic region and in other parts of northern Europe on a supposedly rotational but in effect permanent basis. [Naval] bases are being built in the Black Sea. The British are building bases in Ukraine. They are building a base in the Sea of Azov.”

Indeed, the number and scale of NATO military exercises have increased significantly. For example, up to 40,000 military service personnel were deployed at various stages of the Defender‑Europe 21 maneuvers last spring and summer. In 2018, 50,000 troops participated in the Trident Juncture maneuvers in Norway. Basically, these maneuvers were strongly reminiscent (in their scenarios, if not in scale) of those that took place during the first cold war: Enemy aggression and its repulsion by US troops arriving from across the ocean. Needless to say, [the exercises] consider Russia a potential adversary.

However, this is certainly not happening because of a sudden outburst of Russophobia. NATO’s increased military activity has a fairly rational basis – something that Moscow does not want to talk about. All of this began after the 2014 annexation of the Crimea and the war that started in the Donetsk Basin at the same time with the participation of “tractor drivers and miners” who bought tanks, artillery and antiaircraft systems at “commissaries.” That was when countries on NATO’s eastern flank started worrying about their security. “Who will die for Narva?” [people] in Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Riga were asking.

The response to that perfectly legitimate concern following Russia’s actions with regard to Ukraine was the deployment of NATO’s four multilateral battalion-sized battle groups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. I remember very well how Russian generals rejoiced in 2014 [sic; 2016 – Trans.], when the alliance made the decision to deploy those battalions [see Vol. 68, No. 24‑25, pp. 17‑19]. After all, our Defense Ministry is regularly reporting on the creation of new divisions in the West. As for maneuvers, if the ministry’s reports can be trusted, as many as 200,000 military service personnel participated in the West [Zapad] 2021 exercise! NATO is nowhere close.

When this obvious numerical superiority is pointed out to Moscow, a seemingly incontrovertible argument follows: We can do whatever we think is necessary on our own territory. As for the Yanks, they fly to our borders from across the ocean. First of all, I would like to note that for some reason Moscow has forgotten that Russia is still obligated to comply with the limits under the [2011] Vienna Document [on Confidence and Security-Building Measures in Europe]. In accordance with [this document], it is required to give prior notification of the concentration of military forces outside their normal peacetime locations, as well as of maneuvers and snap inspections [of combat readiness], even if they are conducted on [Russian] territory. . . .

But the main thing is that foreign military presence outrages only Moscow, not the states where such presence is maintained. Such presence (naturally, with the consent of the host country) is the core of NATO’s strategy. The alliance emerged precisely at the moment when European countries realized that they would be unable to stand up to Soviet expansion without US military support. It seems that today, all NATO members agree that US presence ensures their security. So the argument that the Americans are acting on foreign soil is addressed exclusively to the Russian domestic audience.

All in all, I believe that an explanation for the current militaristic hysteria is in Vladimir Putin’s head. “Enough is enough” – essentially, this is Sergei Lavrov’s only explanation of what is going on. Indeed, how long will the arrogant NATO continue to ignore our great leader? . . .