The opening remarks Sunday night by Dmitry Kiselyov on Vesti Nedeli, the widely watched weekly round-up of news from Russian state television, minced no words: “Russia has made a proposal to the United States which it cannot refuse. The moment of truth has arrived.” He was referring, of course, to the draft treaties on mutually assured security presented to the United States and NATO through diplomatic channels and simultaneously posted on the website of the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Friday.
These proposals, demanding in effect a roll-back of NATO to the status quo before its expansion eastward in 1997, was immediately understood by the Russian public to be an ultimatum and evoked various reactions. The move was clearly not deemed to be an open and shut case, as Mr. Kiselyov would have us believe.
In what follows, I offer a translation of commentary posted on three Russian websites during December 18-19. Two of the websites are middle of the road, fairly neutral platforms. One, Ekho Moskvy, is the boldest anti-Putin news website in the country with an audience cutting across the social strata.
https://news.rambler.ru/politics 18 December 2021
“A political scientist has related how the USA will respond to Russia’s ultimatum,” by Yuvelina Bernst
The proposals of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to achieve strategic stability will most likely not be accepted by the USA and NATO and can lead to unforeseeable consequences, right up to a war. That is the opinion voiced by political scientist Yevgeny Satanovsky in his Telegram channel “Armagedonnych.”
The first reaction, in his words, is predictable: ‘something may be discussed, but as a whole it is unacceptable.’ Otherwise, the United States ‘will have to curtail all work on strangling Russia militarily, leaving for this purpose only agitation, propaganda, recruitment, espionage, and, at the worst, sabotage ..’
He explained that U.S. President Joe Biden and the Democrats would not be forgiven by his predecessor Donald Trump and the Republicans for a retreat from the present positions in Europe after Afghanistan.
At the same time, in case of a head to head clash between Washington and Moscow, taking into account new technologies, ‘there will be no shortage of spilled blood,’ noted the political scientist.
‘It’s a hell of a curious situation. It can end up in anything,’ the expert concluded.
[note: Satanovsky is an expert in military affairs based in Moscow and appeared often in the top-level Russian political talk shows on Russian state television during the military campaign in Syria]
“Ultimatum of the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What fate awaits the Treaty on Security Guaranties?”
by Sergei Osipov, staff writer, Argumenty i Fakty.
[AiF is the largest daily social and political newspaper of Russia, with circulation of over 1.5 million]
On 17 December there appeared on the website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs a draft Treaty between the RF and the USA on security guaranties. Russian diplomacy banged its fist on the negotiating table and demanded that the world listen to it. Now the main thing is to make sure that the table holds.
Proposal or Ultimatum?
In essence, the Russian project is a polite form of an ultimatum. Not, of course, like the one that Austria-Hungary presented to Serbia on the eve of World War I, but still. Russia, for example, is offering America not to accept the former Soviet republics into NATO. There is no mention in the text of the document of those already admitted. However, Moscow wants to cut off the road to NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and – what the hell – Belarus.
There are two more points, which unilaterally concern only the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry intends to forbid them to place their bases in the already mentioned former Soviet republics. There is nothing in the text about our bases in Armenia or Tajikistan. Apparently, we are not a priori forbidden to do so.
The cherry on the cake is hidden at the end of the draft treaty. The U.S. military is ordered to return all U.S. nuclear weapons to its national territory. Recall that in Europe, U.S. nuclear bombs are stockpiled in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey. Since pilots in all of these countries are routinely trained to use these weapons, the training programs are also proposed to be shut down.
This raises a logical question: Would NATO countries send Russia off along with her ultimatum? And what should she do if they send her far away and rudely?
“They will definitely send us on our way,” says military expert Alexei Leonkov. “The problem is that there are no appropriate people among the leaders of Europe and the U.S. who are capable of calculating the consequences of their actions. There are no veterans of combat operations in Korea or Vietnam who have felt war firsthand. After 1991, a new generation of Western officials grew up in the West, accustomed to seeing a weak Russia beside them. For a long time, while our country was not in the best shape, we were not taken seriously. But we have gained in strength and pumped up our muscles. The time has come to remind the West of this.”
Let us remember: it was not Russia that initiated the tearing up of many international and bilateral disarmament agreements. On the contrary, our country has always called for preserving the treaty potential that has kept the world from descending into the abyss of war for decades. But in these proposals, the West saw only our weakness and an excuse to increase pressure. This logic is flawed and dangerous.
The Russians are known to be slow in harnessing their horses, but fast in the saddle. We have something to show off to the US and NATO to guarantee our security. What can the West threaten us with? I think that first of all they are threatening us with intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. It is no coincidence that this type of weapon is mentioned more than once in the draft treaty. Let me remind you that these are ground-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty between the USSR and the United States on their destruction was broken under President Trump, so everyone’s hands are free. The Raytheon Corporation began work on the RSMDs even before the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. So far there is no hypersonic warhead for its “flying cigars,” but soon there will be one. However, if the US places its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in Europe, Russia will not lag behind. Not so long ago the chief of the Strategic Missile Forces hinted that we also have successful developments in this direction.
In addition, the West should not forget that Russia now has the most modern Armed Forces in the world. We are the only country that has updated its nuclear arsenal. In the Army alone, the share of new equipment exceeds 70%. So now, after Russian proposals to the United States were published, the joke has become relevant again: whoever has not heard Lavrov, will listen to Shoigu.
The last Russian warning?
Several of the proposals of the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs on creation of a new architecture of international security are so radical that the question arises: were they written for this Earth? For example, the following “wishful thinking”: “The parties shall refrain from the deployment of their armed forces and armaments… in areas where such deployment would be perceived by the other party as a threat to their national security.” Since, as we know, “Russia’s borders do not end anywhere,” and US globalism has become a byword in general, how to fulfill this good wish?
Or here: “The parties shall refrain from flights of heavy bombers equipped for nuclear or non-nuclear weapons and from the presence of surface combat ships of all classes…. in areas, respectively, outside national airspace and outside national territorial waters from which they can engage targets in the territory of the other side. In other words, the American fleet will not go to the Black Sea, but the Russian fleet will go to the Mediterranean Sea? At the same time, no restrictions are imposed on strategic submarines with ballistic missiles.
In general, as Alexander Blok wrote in his poem “The Scythians,” “for the last time the barbarian lyre is summoned to a bright brotherly feast. It would, of course, be nice if our “Western partners” would come to hear our lyre. But I have a suspicion that they will not buy tickets to this concert.
“Thirteen theses on the Russian ultimatum” by Leonid Gozman, political scientist
- This is not just an ultimatum. This is a demand for full and unconditional capitulation.
- Russia does not have the political, economic or military resources to ensure that such an ultimatum works. Nothing except the possibility of destroying the planet so that, to use the expression of the Supreme Commander of the RF Military Forces V.V. Putin, “they croak and we go to heaven.”
- The authors of the ultimatum understand how blithely it will be taken. Such an important document has been communicated not by the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova – her words are likened to the escapades of Zhirinovsky -, and not even by Lavrov, who to a large degree turned into one more propagandist, and by the no less discredited deputies of the minister. This is a call to pay serious attention to the text itself.
- They are demanding that the NATO countries violate their Charter and their obligations set down in international treaties.
- Russia is not offering any steps from its side. The West must acknowledge that we are always and in all matters were and remain right, and they must acknowledge defeat.
- In all of this pre-war hysteria there is nothing even resembling a casus belli – no one has killed the Archduke and no one from the West is threatening us. No one is making territorial claims against us. No one from outside is even trying to intervene in what is going on here domestically. This is all happening in an empty space!
- The talk about a NATO threat is not substantiated by a single fact. The former republics of the Baltics became members of NATO – at their borders everything is calm.
- There are, of course, external threats to Russia – Afghanistan, Iran, perhaps China. But instead of preparing ourselves to repel them, the leadership of Russia is threatening war on those who could be our allies.
- Russia’s leadership wants to speak only with the USA and not with anyone else. It seems they believe their own fairytales about how Europe is no more than a group of US vassals.
- The ultimatum does not say what will happen if it is rejected. Will our troops march on Kiev, Vilnius and Warsaw? Will we bomb Washington? Or just Voronezh?
- The Russian leadership surely consists of people who understand that this ultimatum cannot be accepted. This means they have some kind of plan which varies in a range from nuclear war to the complete closure of the country and its being turned into a big military (concentration) camp. It is just not clear how they will resolve the question of the property and families of high officials of the RF in the West.
- However the foreign policy situation will take shape after the refusal by the West to accept this ultimatum, inside the country repression will be strengthened – both with respect to opponents of the regime, including those who are outside the borders, and with respect to the broad circle of Russian citizens who are not overjoyed by the activity of the authorities.
- The main conclusion: they have lost their minds
[sampling of comments posted by readers:
Jfr – Mr. Gozman, your level is that of some granny in an old folks’ home. It is just such nonsense, doesn’t hold together and is filled with hatred for everything around.
ugas – All correct. Just one point – before you lose your mind you must have one.
unafk – “They have lost their minds!” This is the FIRST thesis. Everything else is not so important!
venq – Well, I don’t know. After Gorbachev ‘let go’ Eastern Europe, NATO quietly expanded to the east. Instead of a finger, they bit off both arms, not having agreed with us a single piece of paper about their expansion. We, imho, are now just trying to bring this NATO pass-through into paper form.]
The foregoing shows the confusion in professional media and public over the government’s intentions by way of the ultimatum to Washington and Brussels. It bears mention that even a political analyst as close to power, as much interviewed on state television as Fyodor Lukyanov shows, in an article he published yesterday in The Moscow Times, that he is clueless about the government’s game plan. It is all being played very close to the chest by Vladimir Putin and his immediate entourage.
That there is a game plan, a chess strategy anticipating many different possible moves by both sides to the confrontation is beyond doubt. Perhaps on Thursday when Vladimir Putin holds his annual televised “Direct Line” conversation with the Russian public we will learn more. Normally this long Q&A focuses on domestic policy questions, but we may anticipate that this year the accent will be on foreign policy in general and on the ultimatum in particular.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2021