Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would ponder various options if the West fails to meet Moscow’s demands for security guarantees, amid heightened tensions involving a massive deployment of Russian troops near Ukraine.
Moscow earlier this month submitted draft security documents demanding an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and military cooperation with countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, among other things.
Speaking at his annual news conference last week, Putin urged the West to meet the demands “immediately,” listing off a litany of grievances about Ukraine and NATO.
He warned that Moscow would have to take adequate measures if the West continues its “aggressive” course “on the threshold of our home.”
Asked to specify what Moscow's response could be, he said in comments aired by Russian state TV on December 26 that “it could be diverse,” adding: “It will depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me.”
He did not elaborate.
U.S. officials have said publicly that they were willing to hold talks on the Russian demands. Privately, however, officials in Washington and elsewhere have said some of the demands are either unworkable, impossible, or fundamentally contrary to Western values.
The United States and its allies have agreed, however, to launch security talks with Moscow next month to discuss its concerns.
On December 25, a NATO official was quoted as saying Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had decided to convene a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 12 and that the alliance was in contact with Russia on the matter.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the proposal was still under consideration, with the format and timing needing clarification.
It would be the first meeting of the council in 2 1/2 years.
Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Russia of having massed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders in a possible prelude to an invasion. The United States and the European Union have threatened Moscow with harsh consequences in the event of a military escalation.
Russia has denied intending to launch an invasion.
Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly after threw its support behind separatists battling Ukrainian government forces in the country’s east in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on December 25 that more than 10,000 troops had finished monthlong drills near Ukraine, and that the soldiers involved were returning to their permanent bases.
The ministry said in a statement that the exercises for Southern Military District forces had taken place in a host of southern Russian regions such as Rostov and Krasnodar, and further afield, including in Stavropol, Astrakhan, and the North Caucasus.
Combat training sessions were also held in Russia’s ally Armenia, occupied Crimea, and the Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it said.
Information from AP, AFP and Current Time were used in this report.