Kremlin Calls for U.S. Not to Send Aircraft to Areas Where They Can Strike Russian Territory

The Kremlin submitted security pact drafts on Friday that directly combats an increase in U.S. aircraft flying into any potential battle territory. The documents also state that Russia's army will abide by the same rules if the U.S. agrees to its terms, meaning it won't send any of its aircraft or ships into U.S.-controlled territory.

The pacts also urged NATO to deny Ukraine and other former Soviet countries membership in their organization.

The documents come as tensions between Russia and Ukraine are heating up. Due to reports of a build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, Ukraine and its western allies are warning of a potential invasion.

Russia has denied that any invasion is being considered, but it has asked for a guarantee by NATO that the organization will not expand into Ukraine. The request has been refused. Due to the tensions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia's relationship with the U.S. and NATO is at a "dangerous point."

According to experts, it is likely that Russia's demands will be rejected by the U.S. and its allies.

Russia Drills
In this image taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian army's self-propelled howitzers fire during military drills near Orenburg in the Urals, Russia, on December 16, 2021. Russian troop buildup near Ukraine has drawn Ukrainian and Western concerns of a possible invasion, but Moscow has denied planning to invade its neighbor. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow proposed that the U.S. immediately start the talks on the proposed drafts in Geneva.

The drafts would oblige Washington and its allies take an obligation to halt NATO's eastward expansion to include other ex-Soviet republics and rescind a 2008 promise of membership to Ukraine and Georgia.

They also would preclude the U.S. and its allies from setting up military bases on the territories of Ukraine, Georgia and other ex-Soviet nations which aren't members of NATO.

The draft agreement with NATO also contains a bold demand to roll back the alliance's troops deployments in Central and Eastern Europe, stating that the parties agree not to deploy any troops to areas where they hadn't been present in 1997, before NATO's eastward expansion started—except for exclusive situations of mutual consent.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, followed in 2004 by Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In the following years, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia also became members, bringing NATO's total to 30 nations.

A draft treaty with the U.S. contains a ban on the deployment of U.S. and Russian warships and aircraft to "areas where they can strike targets on the territory of the other party."

Moscow has long complained about patrol flights by U.S. strategic bombers near Russian borders and the deployment of U.S. and NATO warships to the Black Sea, describing them as destabilizing and provocative.

Russia's draft also envisages a pledge not to station intermediate-range missiles in areas where they can strike the other party's territory, a clause that follows the U.S. and Russian withdrawal from a Cold War-era pact banning such weapons.

President Vladimir Putin raised the demand for security guarantees in last week's video call with U.S. President Joe Biden. During the conversation, Biden voiced concern about a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and warned him that Russia would face "severe consequences" if Moscow attacked its neighbor.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that the alliance had received the Russian draft documents, and noted that any dialogue with Moscow "would also need to address NATO's concerns about Russia's actions, be based on core principles and documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO's European partners, such as Ukraine."

He added that the 30 NATO countries "have made clear that should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence building measures."

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia has moved 70,000 troops to its border with Ukraine and is preparing for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied an intention to attack and accused Ukrainian authorities of planning an offensive to reclaim control of rebel-held eastern Ukraine—an allegation Ukraine has rejected.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. It has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine's industrial heartland of Donbas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sergei Ryabkov
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said his country's relationship with the U.S. and NATO is at a "dangerous point." Above, Ryabkov speaks during the annual meeting of the Russian Academy of Science on April 20, 2021, in Moscow. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

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