Imagine these three scenarios:
NATO stops recruiting new members. The United States stops building military bases in one-sixth of the world. The United States takes back missiles given to EU countries. Do you think that sounds like security policy madness? Then a powerful man strongly disagrees with you:
Russlands president Vladimir Putin.
This week, his envoy is in a hurry. They must negotiate with both the United States and NATO. The theme of the agenda is Russia’s military escalation along the border with Ukraine.
The West demands that Russian forces withdraw. But for that to happen, Russian President Vladimir Putin demands that the three scenarios become a reality.
But is it likely? And what does Putin do if he does not get what he wants?
We will return to the answers to the questions, but first:
The politicians of the world meet steadily and constantly. So why is this week so important?
The meetings were set after a year in which the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has become even worse.
It started in April. Then suddenly 100,000 Russian soldiers stood along the Ukrainian border. Then they were withdrawn. In November, it happened again. At that time, the level of strength building was much higher than in the spring of the year.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg described it as follows:
– An unusual gathering of forces. And we know that Russia has in the past been willing to use such military capabilities in aggressive actions against Ukraine.
It was not just Russia’s military that showed stronger muscles than before. The vocabulary was also much sharper than before.
Warns of great war
Suddenly, several warned of great war.
In the new year, NATO predicted. By the end of January, Ukraine’s defense minister declared.
Whether this is actually realistic is disputed by experts and politicians. A lot stands and falls on this week’s negotiations. Nupi researcher Julie Wilhelmsen describes the upcoming meetings as:
– Very important. Because the situation is so tense. Russia’s threat to use military force against Ukraine if none of Putin’s demands is met is, in my opinion, quite real, she says.
– A lot is at stake.
Here is an overview of what we can expect.
Who is it that meets?
The stage is set. The meetings will take place at the world’s diplomatic headquarters – Geneva.
January 10: US and Russia meet.
January 12: Russia and NATO meet.
January 13: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meets. It includes the United States and other NATO allies. Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and other Soviet states will also participate.
The first two dates are considered the most important. Then the great powers meet, who have the most to say.
What do they want?
While many watered chops and salted ribs on Christmas Eve, Putin held a press conference. There he gave a clear message:
– You must give us insurance. No delays. You! Now! he stated.
But he is not the only one with goals for the meetings. This is what the different parties want:
Putin presented his list of demands in December. The most important point is the requirement that NATO is not expanded to the east, Wilhelmsen believes.
If NATO agrees, Ukraine will not be allowed to join. It would have been a great victory for Putin. He believes that Ukraine is actually part of Russia.
“Putin wants formal agreements and guarantees that NATO will not get closer to Russia’s border,” she explains.
– There are very, very high demands. It is unlikely that the Kremlin believes that all these demands will be met.
Putin has nevertheless received a handshake that may have made him think that something can be achieved.
The United States has long had a clear line when it comes to Russia:
To deter. Among other things, by building up military support for Ukraine.
After Russia presented its list of demands last month, something surprising happened. US President Joe Biden and Putin spoke by telephone twice in one month.
Biden urged Putin to calm tensions with Ukraine. He made it clear that the United States and its allies would respond if Russia actually invaded Ukraine. At the same time, he emphasized support for diplomacy and this week’s talks with NATO, according to one statement from the White House.
– The United States has not only ignored Putin, but said it was willing to enter into a dialogue about Russia’s concerns for its own security, Wilhelmsen explains.
That in itself is a type of recognition, she believes, which the Kremlin is probably very pleased with.
There has been opposition on the US home field, which could affect Biden.
There are several Americans who believe that one should increase military support for Ukraine rather than enter into negotiations with Putin. On the other hand, some argue that Russia’s concerns about preventing a major war must be taken into account, especially since the United States is most likely unwilling to go to war for Ukraine.
– There are different voices in the United States. It will be important to follow them to see which strategy Biden emphasizes most next week, says Wilhelmsen.
Although Ukraine’s fate is high on the agenda for this week’s meetings, the country does not have much to say in the negotiations.
Nevertheless, there is very little doubt about what Ukraine wants:
NATO membership. In other words, the complete opposite of what Russia wants.
That puts NATO in a pinch.
In December, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a tale. He asked Russia to return to diplomacy and calm down along the border with Ukraine. Nevertheless, it is not entirely clear what the coalition really wants.
NATO is the sum of its member countries. They have different views on how Russia should be handled and how security is best created.
On Friday, NATO met for an emergency meeting. The meetings there were to be planned this week.
What’s going to happen?
Will Putin get what he wants? This means that all the requirements on his list are approved. It depends on how much NATO is willing to give.
It is difficult to predict what, if anything, NATO will say yes to, says Nupi researcher Helge Blakkisrud. According to him, Putin’s entire list is approved:
– Completely out of date. It is completely impossible for NATO to agree to Putin’s list of demands in its entirety.
So what about Putin’s threat to enter Ukraine militarily? The question is whether it is not just a game for the gallery.
– In any negotiation, you enter with a list of requirements. Putin has drawn red lines and issued an ultimatum. But then it is in the nature of the negotiation that you have to give something. Absolute requirements will have to be moderated, new solution proposals may come up along the way, he says.
He doubts that the meetings will end in a final solution, but believes it is a step in the right direction for the parties to meet and discuss.
– Then it becomes important that they do not talk themselves into a war no one really wants, but rather out of it.