In the course of his 50-minute press briefing yesterday on the draft strategic treaties which Russia presented to the United States and NATO this week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at least three times that Russia is ready to open negotiations now, “immediately,” “tomorrow,” in some third country on those treaties, if the U.S. accepts. Members of the Russian team which will participate in the negotiations have already been selected, he reported.
From the outset, he cautioned that the two drafts “are not a menu from which one can pick and choose this or that. They are complementary and must be considered as a whole,” in full knowledge that the drafts contain articles excluding NATO expansion to the east and deployment of threatening weapons in the proximity of Russia, which Western capitals, thus far, reject.
But discussions are required, when peace between nuclear powers is at stake, he reminded. “We urge the American side to regard the Russian proposals with the utmost seriousness…. The global situation remains rather tense, and it is in our best interests to find ways to resolve this [problem].” Russia and the U.S. are “great nuclear powers,” and therefore have “a special responsibility for security in Europe.”
What responses has Russia gotten? We haven’t heard a yes, but we haven’t heard a no, he answered at one point. At another, “for the moment we are ready to give them time.” Asked what the Americans may request in turn, he replied, “I have no such information. We have to wait; it is a work in progress.”
He refused to entertain any “scenarios” of what could happen should Russia’s request be ignored. “I do not want to fuel tensions; I want to take a fire extinguisher in the form of those two draft texts, and using this fire extinguisher, I would like to douse certain embers.”
But, he also made clear there are limits. NATO’s flagrant refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate concerns can only lead to further dangerous escalation, and “we cannot tolerate this anymore…. Washington and NATO allies should stop hostile activities directed against our nation, including unannounced military exercises, dangerous approaches and maneuvers of warships and warplanes, and stop the military development of Ukrainian territory.”
Asked how Russia could stop the U.S. from dragging out the negotiations, Ryabkov emphasized reality; the current opposing security interests between the U.S, NATO and Russia require negotiations and “a creative approach and responsible policies.” If the negotiations start, we will take stock of the progress as the negotiations proceed.
He noted wryly, we have done part of the job for our American colleagues. We have stipulated everything with contractual language cross-references. There is even a translation, and the translation has been improved with the sources, so everything has been given. They have only to sign the document. It can be done, he said. “I would propose they take our proposals seriously, and use them as the basis on which to begin negotiations.”