How should Nato respond to Moscow's demands?

In two drafts for treaties with the US and Nato, Russia has outlined the security architecture it envisages for Eastern Europe. It wants Nato membership for former Soviet republics to be taboo and Nato to withdraw all weapons stationed in the region. The US and Ukraine have already rejected the demands. Europe's press debates how seriously they should be taken.

Open/close all quotes
Irish Independent (IE) /

Give Putin the assurance he wants

Since there are no plans for Ukraine to join Nato anyway, the organisation could comply with Moscow's request on this score, writes columnist David von Drehle in The Irish Independent:

“It ought to be possible to say forthrightly what everyone in the West knows to be true: Nato has no plan for bringing Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. If Mr Putin needs assurance that no such plan exists, what's the harm in giving it to him? At the same time, while the West does not intend to claim these lands, we won't surrender them either. Mr Biden is right to threaten severe economic consequences for Russia should Mr Putin further invade Ukraine. ...A stable, neutral Ukraine serves everyone's interest. So why not tell it like it is.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Appeasement won't prevent war

Rzeczpospolita warns against a policy of appeasement towards Russia and compares the situation with the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which France, Italy and UK made concessions to Hitler in order to avoid war:

“There is nothing behind Putin's demands but the idea of a new Munich. The major power is a different one, but the meaning is the same. ... Let us remember Churchill's words after the Munich Agreement: 'You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.' The West must not behave today as the governments of France and Britain back then. Today we know that appeasement doesn't pay off.”

Postimees (EE) /

The Kremlin was further on decades ago

Putin should be reminded of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) during the negotiations, writes Edward Lucas in Postimees:

“Russia says it wants to negotiate the future of European security? Good. We agree - and we have our own proposals. First, we should remind Putin of what the Soviet Union, which he so admires, signed in 1975. The first set of issues included the recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states and conflict resolution without the use or threat of force. Russia has flouted all these agreements in the case of Ukraine. And it is systematically breaking its promise to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in its own country too.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

No basis for negotiations

Moscow's demands are completely unrealistic from a Western point of view, writes Tageblatt:

“The EU states and the US cannot possibly help negotiate an international security agreement in which the ultimate aim is to prohibit independent and sovereign states from determining their own security or alliance policy orientation. This would mean fundamentally undermining one of the basic principles of the international state system, the sovereignty of each country. The question is therefore how serious Vladimir Putin is about his offer to negotiate. Especially since the current conflict situation in Eastern Europe was triggered by the Kremlin itself.” (UA) /

Unrealistic and unfair

The conditions cannot be met, insists:

“Russia is demanding the impossible - the withdrawal of all Nato infrastructure from Eastern Europe, the denial to Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries of any prospect, however small, of membership in the Alliance and an end to cooperation with them, as well as no more stationing Nato weapons in places where they could target Russia. And funnily enough, the latter refuses to withdraw its own strategic weapons from any of its territory - from Kaliningrad or occupied Crimea, for example.”

Vzglyad (RU) /

This is how bargaining works

In Russia, it's standard procedure to enter negotiations with exaggerated demands, Vsglyad points out:

“This is merely Russia's initial position, in straightforward Russian, and somewhat taken to extremes - as is the tradition in preliminary negotiations. It's a position that needs to be discussed, and which will naturally change in the course of the negotiations if the goal is a common denominator in Russian and US views. The statement by [Deputy Foreign Minister] Ryabkov that this is an 'indivisible menu' is not about the stated positions on the issues, but about the issues themselves on which a compromise is to be found. So no one is about to demand that Nato reduce the protection of its member states.”

Observador (PT) /

Don't repeat past mistakes

The West must negotiate with Russia, writes Observador:

“The Kremlin wants answers to its demands urgently. Putin knows he has set the bar too high, which will make the talks between the parties lengthy and difficult. Moreover, Putin is in no way willing to show weakness in this confrontation. It's clear that Russia's interests must be respected, a dialogue should be established with the country, and the mistake of humiliating it that was made in the 1990s must not be repeated. But this must not be done to the detriment of other countries.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Nord Stream 2 is the required leverage

Germany now seems ready to play its joker against Putin, Corriere della Sera interjects:

“Just a month ago, the Russian-German pipeline that would make the Kremlin boss the true ruler of Europe's energy supplies seemed to be a done deal. But then two things happened. A new government under Olaf Scholz took office in Berlin and the Ukraine crisis escalated due to the real or suspected threat of a military invasion by Putin. This war scenario has prompted Germany to link the Ukraine crisis and Nord Stream 2 for the first time, as its US allies have called on it to do: if Russia violates Kiev's territorial integrity, the pipeline will be permanently blocked.”