Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been mostly silent throughout the Ukrainian crisis, content to let members of his government and military do his talking for him has finally spoken. He accused the United States and our allies of basically ignoring Russia’s top security demands.
But he also signaled that Moscow was willing to negotiate more to ease the tensions over Ukraine.
While Putin blames the West for attempting to start a war, the Russians have more than 127,000 troops surrounding Ukraine from three sides. And Putin is adamant that NATO not allow Ukraine to join the alliance, and he demands that the West cut troop numbers on the Russian borders and not allow offensive missiles so close to their borders.
“I hope that we will eventually find a solution” to the Ukraine conflict, “although we realize that it’s not going to be easy,” according to the Associated Press.
Putin then speculated, that if Ukraine became part of NATO that they could attack Crimea which was part of Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014, after the ouster of Russian-friendly president, followed by the Russians fomenting an insurgency in the Donbas. There have been about 14,000 deaths since that insurgency began.
“Imagine that Ukraine becomes a NATO member and launches those military operations,” Putin added. “Should we fight NATO then? Has anyone thought about it?” He once again accused Washington of trying to “Their most important task is to contain Russia’s development, and draw us into a military conflict and force its allies in Europe to impose the tough sanctions the U.S. is talking about now.”
Putin spoke to the press after he conducted a five-hour-long meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, where he said, “It is already clear… I informed the Prime Minister about this, that the fundamental Russian concerns were ignored. We did not see an adequate consideration of our three key requirements.”
He added that Russia had not seen “adequate consideration of our three key demands regarding NATO expansion, the renunciation of the deployment of strike weapons systems near Russian borders, and the return of NATO’s military infrastructure in Europe to the state of 1997, when the Russia-NATO founding act was signed.”
He ended his press conference by blasting NATO’s decision to renege on a promise that the alliance would not expand “not an inch” eastward. “They said one thing, they did another,” Putin said. “As people say, they screwed us over, well they simply deceived us.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke over the telephone on Tuesday, however, there was no budging off of key points on both sides. Blinken reportedly told Lavrov that if Moscow wasn’t going to invade or attempt a regime change then it was time to pull back their troops and engage in serious diplomatic discussions on the situation.
Lavrov said that the U.S. accusations were baseless and the Russian troops were only moving within their own borders. He added that the U.S. needs to respect the charter signed in Istanbul by members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and Canada, during the call with Blinken.
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, dismissed Putin’s arguments, contemptuously comparing them to “when the fox is screaming from the top of the henhouse that he’s scared of the chickens.”
“We know who the fox is, in this case,” Psaki added.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and offered his own dark take of what would occur if the diplomatic talks fail. “This is not going to be a war of Ukraine and Russia,” should diplomatic efforts fail, he said. “This is going to be a European war, a full-fledged war.”
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.