The document in which Russia demands “security guarantees” from the US and NATO on its western border has unleashed a diplomatic offensive that cannot be considered over, no matter how meager the results obtained so far may seem. Moscow has ordered Washington and the Atlantic Alliance to place themselves in May 1997, when the founding act of relations between Russia and NATO was signed. The Kremlin maintains that NATO should not deploy military contingents and weapons outside the borders it had in 1997, before it was expanded with new members, former allies of the USSR in the Warsaw Pact and former members of the Soviet state.
Metaphorically speaking, the Russian position supposes a rewind of the time elapsed since 1997 and the withdrawal of the troops and weapons displaced in those countries, to leave them, from the military point of view, as they were before their entry into the Alliance. But, unlike space, which can be compartmentalized again and again, time is common matter for all and it does not seem balanced that Moscow demands a rewind of it – like a cinematographer reversing a film – in one part of the European continent and do not apply that same rewind in its own territory and in the space that it currently controls. In order for the proposed freeze of time (going back to 1997) to be taken as a basis for equitable negotiation, it should also apply to Russian and Russian-controlled space. In this logic, Russia should leave Crimea, a peninsula that was annexed in 2014, and also stop supporting secessionists in eastern Ukraine. This seemingly implausible construction could mark a kind of zero point from which to revise and rebuild common time piece by piece, that long chain of episodes of mistrust and resentment that has led Russia and NATO to dead ends .
It should be remembered that both Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president, and Vladimir Putin explored the possibility of their country joining NATO, but the approximation did not work out, for reasons that it would not be a bad idea to analyse. NATO did not become the collective security instrument capable of integrating (or transforming) Russian perceptions of security and let us not forget that the creation of a single security space between Vancouver and Vladivostok was one of the great (failed) goals of the end of the Cold War. Putin does not see Ukraine as an independent state and the Russian military deployment is part of his policy to reclaim the western space from the Russian empire. The Russian president would no doubt prefer to achieve his end without resorting to invasion, but he indicates that he is willing to take on war if necessary. The West does not want war either, but in Ukraine there are red lines that it cannot ignore. As if they were the elements of a theatrical decoration, Putin puts on stage all available resources, armed troops on the border and in military exercises in Belarus, and in the State Duma (Lower House of the Russian Parliament) this week 11 communist deputies presented a call to recognize the so-called Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics as states. This recognition, perhaps, would not require the entry of new Russian troops, and could be presented by Moscow as a humanitarian act towards the local population, among whom hundreds of thousands of Russian passports have been distributed. It would be a scenario similar to that of the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. Putin can decide if he wants to use it and when, if it supposes a favorable cost/benefit ratio as a reunifier of Russian lands.
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