Why Russia blames NATO for the crisis in Ukraine

(CNN Spanish) — While the build-up of Russian military forces on the border with Ukraine and the threat of a war in Europe capture the world’s attention, Moscow continues to insist that it is not seeking a war and that NATO is responsible for the crisis, although The United States and its allies have said that the authorship of the crisis belongs to Russia. What is this position based on and what is that of the Atlantic alliance based on?

Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said this Thursday in front of a group of journalists in his country’s first formal response to the document that NATO and the United States delivered to him the previous day regarding the crisis in Ukraine.

Military forces have been concentrated on the country’s borders with Ukraine for months, and the threat of a war has generated an escalation between Russia and NATO, whose most powerful member is the United States.

“There is no positive reaction on the main topic in this document. The main problem is our clear position on the inadmissibility of NATO’s further expansion to the east and the deployment of attack weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov’s reaction to the document, which itself was also a response to Russia’s demands made weeks earlier, seems cement Moscow’s position around the military escalation: that NATO’s expansion to the east, with the entry into the alliance of multiple countries and the neighborhood with Ukraine, are a threat to its security and the main cause of its recent deployments.

Russia’s accusations

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin had already explained in more detail why he blamed NATO for the crisis in Ukraine.

“How would the Americans react if we deployed our missiles on their border with Canada? It’s a security issue and they already know our red lines,” Putin said at a press conference.

“They have blatantly deceived us. Five waves of NATO expansion. And there it is: now they are in Romania and Poland, with weapons systems,” Putin said, assuring that Russia “does not want military action.” “We ask directly that there be no further moves by NATO to the east. The ball is in their court.”

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NATO’s response

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, said this Wednesday that “Russia must refrain from adopting postures based on coercive force, aggressive rhetoric and malign activities directed against the Allies and other nations”, and that it must withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia Y moldova“where they are deployed without the consent of these countries.”

Stoltenberg also noted during the news conference that countries have “the right to choose their own security arrangements,” referring to NATO membership in recent years. “Therefore, it is about respecting the right to self-determination.”

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, reaffirmed the following day in dialogue with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that his country “will respond decisively if Russia invades Ukraine”, although it was not clear if this would include the deployment of troops or just Economic sanctions.

“President Biden noted that the United States provided Ukraine with more than $500 million in humanitarian and development assistance in the past year, and is exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy amid pressure resulting from Russia’s military buildup,” says the White House statement about the call between Biden and Zelensky.

How did NATO come about?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is formed April 4, 1949 as a defensive alliance formed by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The official signing ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on April 4, 1949 in Washington. (Credit: AFP/AFP via Getty Images)

Defense against whom? Against the Soviet Union, in the context of an emerging Cold War, and based on the Allied Western powers during World War II. The United States, the Soviet Union, and China had been allies against the Axis powers during World War II, and all three are now members of the UN Security Council, along with the United Kingdom and France.

West Germany’s entry into NATO in 1955 reason the formation of a similar, and opposite, defensive alliance between the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries under its purview: the Warsaw Pact.

NATO and the Warsaw Pact grew in capabilities and membership during the Cold War. But in 1991, in the midst of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact dissolved.

Direct relations between the Russian Federation, which emerged in 1991, and NATO have been governed first by the Joint Permanent Council (PJC), formed in 1997 within the framework of the Founding Act of Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia, and then by the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), which replaced it in 2004 and is still in place.

nato map

Since then the growth of NATO has not stopped, especially with regard to the entry into the alliance of former socialist republics independent of the Soviet Union or Eastern European countries formerly in Moscow’s sphere of influence.

From the Iron Curtain to the Atlantic Alliance

Former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania entered in NATO between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. While East Germany also became part of the alliance after reunification in 1990.

On the other hand, the Baltic countries Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, independent from the USSR in 1991, They joined NATO in 2004.

Ukraine, now at the center of the conflict between the United States and Russia, began to move closer to NATO in the very year of its independence, when it joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Councila forum created together with former members of the Warsaw Pact, also including Russia.

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In 1997 Ukraine signed an agreement with NATO associationand in 2008 manifested their intentions to become a member, an aspiration also shared by Georgiaanother independent state from the Soviet Union.

But Russia opposed strongly to both aspirations, even leading NATO to put cold years and postpone the process. In Ukraine, too, the government and parliament have reacted similarly in the face of pressure from Moscow.

In addition, in 2008 Russia staged a short war in Georgia in support of pro-Russian rebels in two rebel provinces -which led to the secession of the so-called republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, still recognized by most countries as part of Georgia- and in 2014 invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula, until then part of Ukraine.

In relation to the 2014 situation in Ukraine, the then Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ad that the alliance had decided to “put the full range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review” to send “a clear message that Russia’s actions have consequences.”

But the entry of Ukraine, which has been at war with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern provinces of Lugansk and Donetsk ever since, was frozen, and now the country faces a new crisis as Russian military forces mass on the border.

With information from Tara John, Matthew Chance, Laura Smith-Spark, Luke McGee, Anna Chernova, and Sam Fossum.

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