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Russia Rejects Claim That Security Proposals are Attempt to Restore 'Spheres of Influence'

CC0 / / Map of Europe
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On Friday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters that Brussels rejects alleged Russian attempts to "build spheres of influence" in Europe, and said that dialogue would never come "at the expense of our freedom, sovereignty, independence and the respect of fundamental values."
Moscow rejects claims made by Western officials and media that its security proposals constitute an attempt to reconstitute 'spheres of influence' in the world, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko has said.
"I think it is clear to everyone, including the layman, that NATO's expansionist project is connected with two geopolitical tasks: the first is precisely the establishment of a zone of influence and its expansion. The second is the search for an enemy. And in order to somehow justify these tasks, they attribute to the Russian side an intention to restore spheres of influence. In fact, they themselves seek to set up and expand such zones as much as possible," Grushko said in an interview with Russia's Kommersant newspaper on Monday.
"For example, NATO and EU representatives regularly make statements about which regions Russia and now China 'should not be allowed into.' This was said in relation to Afghanistan immediately after the withdrawal of US forces and its allies. This is also being said in relation to the Western Balkans, although from the point of view of common sense it is completely incomprehensible why Russia's historically good-neighbourly relations with the countries of this region can pose a threat to someone. On the contrary, this is an additional factor of stability and security," the diplomat added.
Grushko recalled that the Charter for European Security adopted at the 6th summit of the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe in 1999 states that "within the OSCE no State, group of States or organisation can have any pre-eminent responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the OSCE area or can consider any part of the OSCE area as its sphere of influence."
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"From NATO and the European Union – which signed all these obligations, we constantly hear that if they do not enter some area, then a vacuum will be formed that will be filled by others. And the internal conflict in Ukraine arose largely as a result of the attempts by the US and the EU to put the country in the position of an artificial choice between the West and Russia. In other words, it is not Russia that's thinking in terms of spheres of influence, but those who accuse us of doing so," the deputy foreign minister stressed.

Russia is presently awaiting the written responses from the US and NATO to the security guarantee proposals outlined by the Russian Foreign Ministry in mid-December following three rounds of discussions last week with US, NATO and OSCE officials. Deputy foreign minister Grushko led the talks with NATo on 12 January in Brussels.
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Russia of attempting to "build spheres of influence" in Europe and said that the bloc "rejects" such efforts. Before Borrell, US and European media pumped out article after article accusing Moscow of plans to rebuild Cold War-style spheres of influence amid Russia's security concerns over Ukraine's potential NATO membership and the threat of a bloc missile and troop buildup in the country.
In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian and Ukrainian leaders expressed support for a neutral, non-bloc aligned Ukraine. Starting in 1998, the Western alliance -whose raison d'etre disappeared with the USSR's disappearance, began an eastward expansion, incorporating every former Soviet ally in Eastern Europe, the three former Soviet Baltic republics, and four republics of the former Yugoslavia. In that time, the alliance has pushed as much as 1,220 km east, and if Ukraine is incorporated, would be over 1,900 km east of NATO's 1989 borders.
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Notwithstanding these developments, the US and its allies have accused Russia of being the aggressive party, claiming Moscow has designs to "invade" Ukraine or even its Baltic NATO neighbours or Poland. Russian officials have dismissed these claims and called on the West to reduce the concentration of forces and the frequency of drills near the Russian frontier, warning that Moscow would be forced to take "counter-threat" countermeasures if this doesn't take place.
Under the security proposals outlined by the Russian Foreign Ministry in mid-December, both sides would be required to refrain from deploying troops, missile systems, aircraft and warships in areas where they could be considered a threat to the other side. NATO is asked to halt its eastward expansion, scrap any ambitions to swallow up Ukraine, and limit the deployment of foreign troops and weapons in countries that joined the bloc after 1997. Moscow believes that if the security proposals were implemented, they would significantly ease tensions between Russia and the West. NATO has already publicly rejected any intention to close its 'open door' policy for membership.
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