Russia on Thursday rebuffed the latest US effort to defuse the Ukraine crisis, saying Washington’s written text failed to give "a constructive response" to such central issues as halting NATO's eastward expansion.
The US also fell short in addressing returning the military infrastructure to what it was when the 1997 Russia-NATO Foundation Act was signed and banning the deployment of strike weapons on the territory of the former Soviet states, said the text of the Russian Foreign Ministry response, as handed to US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan and published by the state-run TASS news agency.
The US chose "convenient topics" and "twisted it in the way to create advantages for America and its allies, which strengthen Moscow's doubts about Washington's willingness to correct the security situation in Europe,” the document added.
"The US and NATO military buildup directly near the Russian boundaries causes alarm as our 'red lines' and core interests in the security domain, as well as Russia's sovereign right to defend them, continue to be ignored," it said.
Attempts to command the movement of the Russian armed forces on its territory under the threat of toughening sanctions are unacceptable and undermine the prospects of achieving reliable agreements, it stressed.
"In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees of ensuring our security by the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures," it said, in a phrase that could set off alarm bells as some 100,000 Russian troops are deployed around neighboring Ukraine.
Russia has denied it has any intention to invade Ukraine, but the US has warned Russia now has the capability to strike “at any time.”
Russia vows there are no plans of incursion into Ukraine
The ministry reiterated that Russia is not planning any invasion of Ukraine and sees such accusations as an attempt to put pressure on the country and devaluate its security guarantees proposals.
On the 2014 invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, which the US, the EU, and Turkiye all call illegal, it said a coup in Ukraine that year with the support of the US and its allies set out to create a “nationalist state, infringing the rights of the Russian and Russian-language population,” and so in a subsequent referendum, “the Crimeans voted for reunion with Russia.”
"The decision of the people of Crimea and Sevastopol to return to the Russian Federation was made by the free expression of will in the exercise of the right to self-determination cemented in the UN Charter. Force or threat of force was not used. The question of Crimea's belonging is closed," it claimed.
The referendum was widely decried by the international community as improper and illegal.
If Ukraine were to join NATO, it could try to reclaim Crimea, which would lead to a war between Russia and NATO, the ministry warned.
The ministry denied that Russia is responsible for the 2014 beginning of the conflict in Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, saying that under international documents, including UN resolutions, Russia is a mediator in the contact group that formulates recommendations for the parties to the conflict and monitors their fulfillment.
"For de-escalation in Ukraine, it is fundamentally important to fulfill the following steps. To force Kyiv to implement the (Minsk) agreements, to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine, to recall from there all Western advisers and instructors, a refusal by the NATO countries from any joint exercises with the Ukrainian armed forces, and to pull out all foreign arms earlier delivered to Kyiv out of Ukrainian territory," it argued.
Balance of powers and principle of indivisibility of security
According to the ministry, the US suggested mutual obligations regarding the deployment and permanent stationing on Ukraine's territory in exchange for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border while refusing to discuss other points.
"The deployment of the Russian Armed Forces on its territory does not concern and cannot concern the fundamental interests of the US. We would like to reiterate that none of our forces are in Ukraine," it stressed.
In the meantime, the US and their allies "move eastward their military infrastructure, deploy contingents" on the territory of new NATO members, and "freely interpret the terms of the Russia - NATO Foundation Act about the permanent dislocation of significant combat forces,” it said.
"We insist on the withdrawal of all armed forces and weapons of the US, deployed in Central, Southeast Europe, and the Baltics," it said.
The ministry then accused the US of ignoring the principle of indivisibility of security by military engagement of post-Soviet territories, not taking into account Russia's security concerns.
Attempts to involve Ukraine in the military buildup are particularly sensitive for Russia, because it happens on its borders, violates its core security interests, and Russia's right to provide security is denied, it continued.
Washington confirmed its adherence to the principle of indivisibility of security in response to Russian proposals on security guarantees but only in the part on states’ right to freely choose alliances, neglecting the second part, under which one cannot strengthen security at the expense of weakening the security of other countries, the ministry argued.
The ministry also disputed NATO's open-door policy as contradicting the principle of the indivisibility of security.
"We call on the US and NATO to return to the commitment to the international obligations in the domain of maintaining peace and security. We expect from the members of the alliance concrete proposals about the content and forms of legally binding refusal from further NATO's expansion eastward," it said.
Russia welcomes US readiness to work on arms control
While most of Russia’s response was negative, it did offer guardedly positive reception to some US proposals.
The ministry said the US expressed readiness to work on separate arms control measures and reduce risks and recognized that a number of Russian proposals and initiatives in these areas, put forward in recent years, are justified.
Moscow is ready for dialogue on military transparency on the condition of creating "a stable foundation of the security architecture in the form of an agreement on the refusal of NATO from further actions that harm Russia's security," it continued.
"The Russian proposals have ‘a package character’ and must be considered in a complex without extracting its separate components," it stressed.
Russia cannot agree with the US seeking to focus exclusively on nuclear arms, promoting "an integrated approach" of creating a new "security equation," the ministry said.
The US also did not respond anything to Russia's worries about the need to pull out US nuclear weapons from non-nuclear states and stop teaching the militaries of such countries how to use them, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the US option for settling the deployment of shorter- and intermediate-range missiles in Europe can be dealt with, it added.
There is also a potential in US ideas about additional measures to reduce the risks of flights of heavy bombardier planes, and the passage of warships near the borders of each country, it said.
The ministry also welcomed the US readiness to start consultations on preventing incidents in the sea and airspace.