Russia Circled by 'Instability Ring,' Diplomat Says As Moscow Ramps up War Talk

Russia and its ally Belarus are being circled by an "instability ring," necessitating serious security considerations, according to one of Moscow's top diplomats at the United Nations.

Top Russian officials have been building a defensive narrative of recent tensions with Ukraine, framing Moscow's deployment of up to 100,000 troops and threats of invasion as a necessary bulwark against perceived Western encroachment.

Russia's First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, claimed on Wednesday that Moscow and its ally Minsk are grappling with regional turbulence.

"In fact, Russia and Belarus are being encircled by some kind of instability ring from the west and from the south," Polyansky said, according to the state-owned Tass news agency.

"This situation directly threatens our stability and security and therefore and should be taken quite seriously into account by Security Council Member States while implementing its mandate in accordance with UN Charter," he said.

Russian officials have previously accused Western rivals of creating a ring of unrest around Russia. In July, for example, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. and its NATO allies were behind political unrest in Ukraine, Belarus, and elsewhere.

"They are attempting to build a belt of instability around us, forcing our nearest neighbors and our fraternal populations to make a choice—either you're with the West or you're with the Russian Federation," Lavrov said.

"They want to absorb the territories around our country through various means—both military and economic ones—and surround us with a buffer zone, additionally profiting from the fact that the West will have a decisive influence on the development of our neighboring countries."

NATO has long loomed as an existential threat in the Russian psyche. Created to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the alliance has expanded eastwards since the Berlin Wall fell. Russia is bordered by five NATO states—Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland.

Ukraine and Georgia—both invaded by Russia in the last 15 years—are among those trying to join the alliance. Though largely spurred to do so by Russian aggression, Moscow has framed their ambitions as evidence of NATO's plan to surround and smother Russia.

Russian troops, armor and artillery remain deployed along the Ukraine border, despite weeks of de-escalation efforts by U.S., European Union and NATO leaders.

President Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO, a proposal rebuffed in Kyiv, Brussels and Washington, D.C.

The strongman has threatened military action if he is not given adequate security guarantees.

"In case of continuation of the rather aggressive line of our Western colleagues, we will respond with adequate military-technical measures, will react harshly to the unfriendly steps," Putin said this week.

Other Russian officials and allies are also ramping up aggressive rhetoric amid the crisis. This week, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed that American mercenaries are preparing a provocation—perhaps with chemical weapons—in Ukraine's Donbas region, close to the front line where fighting continues between Kyiv's forces and Russian-aligned separatists.

Ukraine soldier on front line Donetsk Russia
A Ukrainian serviceman talks on a phone in a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near the village of Pesky, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, on December 14, 2021. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images