MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday he would ponder a slew of options if the West fails to meet his push for security guarantees over neighboring Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Russian president has urged the West to move quickly to meet his demands amid tensions over a troop buildup on Ukraine’s border that has fueled fears of an invasion.
Putin has warned that Moscow will have to take “adequate military-technical 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 Sunday that “it could be diverse,” adding without elaboration that “it will depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me.”
The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantee on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any qualifying country. They agreed. however, to launch security talks with Russia next month to discuss its concerns.
Putin said the talks with the U.S. will be held in Geneva. In parallel, negotiations are also set to be held between Russia and NATO and broader discussions are expected under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In remarks broadcast Sunday, Putin said that Russia submitted the demands in the hope of a constructive answer from the West.
“We didn’t do it just to see it blocked ... but for the purpose of reaching a negotiated diplomatic result that would be fixed in legally binding documents,” Putin said.
He reaffirmed that NATO membership for Ukraine or the deployment of alliance weapons there is a red line for Moscow that it wouldn’t allow the West to cross.
“We have nowhere to retreat,” he said. “They have pushed us to a line that we can’t cross. They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them; ‘Stop!’”
Putin's comments came a day after the 30th anniversary of the resignation of President Mikhail Gorbachev, which concluded 74 years of Soviet history and precipitated the breakup of the USSR. The event upset the world’s balance of power and sowed the seeds of the ongoing tug-of-war between Russia and Ukraine.
While Putin has repeatedly denied intentions to rebuild the USSR, he has described Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” over angry protests from Kyiv and charged that Ukraine unfairly inherited historic parts of Russia in the Soviet demise.
The Russian leader further toughened his rhetoric Thursday during his annual year-end news conference, blaming Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin for handing Russian lands to Ukraine to “create a country that had never existed before.”
He has nonetheless denied an intention of launching an invasion and, in his turn, accused Ukraine of hatching plans to try to reclaim control of the territories held by Moscow-backed rebels by force. Ukraine has rejected the claim.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and shortly after threw its support behind a separatist rebellion in the country’s east. Over more than seven years, the fighting has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.