The Russian president on Tuesday reiterated his demand for guarantees from US and its allies that NATO will not expand eastwards, blaming West for “tensions that are building up in Europe.” Vladimir Putin’s speech at a meeting with Russia’s top military brass came just days after Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe -bold ultimatums that are almost certain to be rejected.
The demands – contained in a proposed Russia-US security treaty and a security agreement between Moscow and NATO – were drafted amid soaring tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that has stoked fears of a possible invasion. Russia has denied it has plans to attack its neighbor but pressed for legal guarantees that would rule out NATO expansion and weapons deployment there. Putin charged Tuesday that if US and NATO missile systems appear in Ukraine, it will take missiles only minutes to reach Moscow. “For us it is most serious challenge – a challenge to our security,” he said, adding that this is why Kremlin needs “long-term, legally binding guarantees” from West, as opposed to “verbal assurances.