Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US and NATO of “ignoring” Russia’s main security “concerns”, especially in relation to the alliance’s expansion to the east, amid tensions following the build-up of Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine.
The eternal war in the “ghost” city of Donbas
“We are carefully analyzing the written response of the US and NATO. But now it is already clear that the main Russian concerns have been basically ignored,” Putin said during a joint press conference in the Kremlin with Víktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary. , a country that shares a border with Ukraine.
On January 26 last, the United States and NATO delivered to Russia their written responses to the “proposals for security guarantees”, which include stopping further expansion of NATO, in particular to Ukraine and Georgia, the cessation of all military cooperation with the former Soviet republics and the withdrawal of Alliance troops and weapons to positions they occupied prior to 1997.
During the press conference, Putin raised the possibility of a conflict between Russia and NATO if Ukraine joins the alliance – a process that, however, has been stalled for years – and then tries to regain control of the Crimean peninsula. “Let’s imagine that Ukraine, as a NATO country, initiates this military operation (for control of Crimea). What do we do? Do we fight with NATO? Has anyone thought of that? It seems not,” he said.
He has also accused the US of using Ukraine as an “instrument” to “contain the development of Russia”. “It can be done in different ways, such as dragging us into an armed conflict and imposing the toughest sanctions on us with the help of its allies in Europe. Or drag Ukraine into NATO, place offensive weapons there and encourage the ultranationalists to settle the issue of Donbas and Crimea by military means, in a way that would also push us into an armed conflict,” he said.
However, the Russian president has said that he hopes that the dialogue on Ukraine will continue.
Orbán: “There is not a single leader (in the EU) who wants conflict with Russia”
For his part, Orbán, the closest ally of the Russian president in the EU, has assured that he sees “possible” a “solution that guarantees the peace and security of Russia, and is also acceptable to NATO.” “I am confident that (this agreement) will be achieved,” he said.
After long negotiations with Putin, which have lasted for almost five hours, the Hungarian ultra-nationalist leader has assured that there are currently “great differences” between the parties regarding the European security model.
“The world was aware of Russia’s demands and the response does not match these,” he said, referring to the written response from the US and NATO. According to Orbán, the positions diverge a lot, but “they can get closer”.
“Tension must be reduced so that the cold war does not return. Dialogue is needed for this. We welcome the fact that dialogue already exists and we hope it will continue,” he said.
“We can offer the Hungarian model: being a member of NATO and the EU, it maintains good relations with Russia, based on mutual respect,” he said, adding that in the European Union now “there is not a single leader who wants conflict with Russia”.
Orbán has stressed that his current meeting with Putin, with whom he has met 12 times, is “the most important due to the international situation.” The Hungarian leader, who was asked by the opposition to cancel his visit to Moscow, had promised that he would consult with his allies in the European Union and NATO before going to Russia.
Unlike other countries in the region such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Budapest has not clearly expressed its support for Kiev in its border conflict with Moscow in recent weeks. Recently, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, has assured that his country will not support Kiev as long as it continues to discriminate against the Magyar minority in Ukraine, which is estimated at 150,000 people.