Russia has introduced a new demand in the diplomatic struggle for Ukraine’s security. In a letter, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western countries of unilaterally interpreting an OSCE treaty document on European security. Lavrov wrote that Western states are strengthening their security at the expense of Russia, which violates existing treaties and the principle of the indivisibility of security. Lavrov immediately demanded a clarification of the Western position.
The letter reached various western foreign ministries on Monday evening. He lies the Süddeutsche Zeitung in a translation. The US State Department confirmed receipt but declined to comment on the content. The Russian Foreign Ministry made it clear that the letter was not the expected response from Moscow to the US and NATO proposals to settle the conflict.
In the four-page letter, Lavrov was “deeply concerned” about the growing military and political tensions” on the border with Ukraine. He complained that the response to the draft treaties presented by Moscow on a reorganization of security in Europe contained “substantial differences” about the brought to light the principle of equal and indivisible security in Europe.
At the center of the Russian demand is the Charter for European Security, which was adopted by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in Istanbul in 1999 and expanded in 2010 during a summit in Astana. This charter contains the principle that every state in the search for security is free to choose an alliance. At the same time, however, it is also stated that no state may increase its security at the expense of other states. Russia uses this contradiction for its argument and complains that the West always only claims the right to choose an alliance for itself, but does not respect the second part of the agreement. “It doesn’t work that way,” Lavrov writes, “but the meaning of the agreement on the indivisibility of security is that there is either security for all or no security for anyone.”
The contradiction in the text of the treaty is well known and has so far only been discussed among experts. In the OSCE, this was discussed in a so-called structured dialogue. The NATO-Russia Council also dealt with it. Other treaties on European security such as the Paris Charter or the NATO-Russia Founding Act refer exclusively to the sovereignty of states and the inviolability of borders. The application of the treaties in recent years, not least by Russia itself, also contributes to the room for interpretation.
Lavrov had already flashed Moscow’s new line of argument in recent meetings with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. The letter now makes it clear that Russia could push this issue to the center of negotiations with the USA and the NATO countries. Western diplomats are undecided as to whether Lavrov’s letter should be seen as a serious start to a negotiation process or merely a distraction from the military build-up on the Ukraine border. It is also unclear whether Lavrov has a negotiating mandate from the Kremlin or is acting on his own initiative. The Russian foreign minister wrote in his letter: “We want a clear answer on how our partners understand their obligation not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states…”
Tuesday was marked by hectic travel diplomacy in the Ukraine crisis. The British and Polish prime ministers met the Ukrainian president in Kiev. Boris Johnson and Mateusz Morawiecki also promised Ukraine military aid, and in Kiev there was immediate talk of a new three-way alliance. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban held talks with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Putin then wanted to face the press – for the first time since the crisis escalated in December.
French President Emmanuel Macron had also called Putin for the second time in just a few days the previous evening. Both sides were silent about the content. Foreign Ministers Blinken and Lavrov also wanted to telephone each other. It was hoped that this conversation would clarify the next step in the negotiations between Russia and the USA. Meanwhile, the Russian troop deployment stopped at the Ukrainian border. The United States is now assuming 130,000 soldiers.