Russia urges NATO to break promise to Ukraine as part of security package
- Moscow wants scrapping of 2008 promise to Ukraine and Georgia
- Demand already ruled out by Washington
- Proposals on warships, missiles could form basis for talks
MOSCOW, Dec 10 (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.
They included proposals on establishing a regular defence dialogue and avoiding near-misses between military planes and warships that could form the basis of discussion with Washington following a two-hour video call this week between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden.
The demand for an effective Russian veto on NATO membership for Ukraine, the most volatile flashpoint in East-West relations, is something that Washington and Kyiv have already categorically ruled out.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed this sentiment and stressed that the alliance's position remained unchanged.
"It is a fundamental principle that every nation has the right to choose its own path ... including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels late on Friday.
"NATO's relationship with Ukraine is going to be decided by the 30 NATO allies and Ukraine, no one else. We cannot accept that Russia is trying to re-establish a system where big powers ... have spheres of influence, where they can control and decide what other members do."
The foreign ministry in Moscow said NATO was on a path to draw in Ukraine, leading to the deployment of missile systems there that would target Russia.
"Such irresponsible behaviour creates unacceptable threats to our security and provokes serious military risks for all parties involved, right up to the point of a large-scale conflict in Europe," it said.
"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'."
Ukraine and Georgia are former republics of the Soviet Union, in which Russia played a dominant role. Kyiv now accuses Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops on its border in preparation for a possible large-scale military offensive, and Biden told Putin this week he would face severe economic sanctions if that happened.
Russia denies planning any attack but accuses Ukraine and the United States of destabilising behaviour, and has said it needs security guarantees for its own protection.
The foreign ministry said Moscow was proposing a series of steps to reduce tensions, including holding military exercises at agreed limits from Russia-NATO borders and set safe distances between their opposing warships and planes, especially in the Baltic and Black Seas.
Moscow also called for the renewing of a regular defence dialogue with the United States and NATO and urged Washington to join a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Western countries not to dismiss Russia's demands for legally biding security guarantees.
"If our opponents on the other side - above all the United States but also other countries, its allies, so-called like-minded countries - if they refuse, and try and torpedo this, they will inevitably get a further worsening of their own security situation," Ryabkov said.
"Not to agree would mean to move closer towards a big confrontation."
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