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Russia quotes 1999 charter to resolve security issue

FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Swiss President Ignazio Cassis (not pictured) meet in Geneva, Switzerland, January 21, 2022. Jean-Christophe Bott/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

On Tuesday, Russia said it will demand that Western nations uphold a 1999 agreement that no country can bolster its own security at the price of others, a point it claims lies at the heart of the Ukraine problem.

The news: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he brought up the issue in a chat with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who agreed that more discussion was needed.

  • According to the State Department’s summary of the call, Blinken encouraged Russia to quickly withdraw soldiers from Ukraine’s border and stated that Washington was eager to continue discussing common security concerns.
  • Russia’s attitude, according to Lavrov, is based on a charter signed in Istanbul in 1999 by members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the U.S. and Canada.

What’s going on: Countries should be allowed to choose their own security arrangements and alliances, according to the charter, but they must not “enhance their security at the price of the security of other states.”

  • Russia accuses the West of doing just that by pushing NATO eastward since the end of the Cold War and refusing to rule out granting Ukraine membership.
  • NATO describes itself as a defensive organisation that welcomes new members.

What they’re saying: “Our western colleagues are simply trying not even to ignore but to consign to oblivion this key principle of international law agreed in the Euro-Atlantic space,” Lavrov told reporters.

  • He said he told Blinken that Russia would not let the matter drop. “We will insist on an honest conversation and an honest explanation of why the West doesn’t want to fulfil its obligations, or wants to meet them only selectively to its own advantage.”
  • According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Lavrov wrote to the U.S., Canada, and a number of other governments on Jan 28 to ask them to explain how they planned to follow through on their commitment to the principle of “indivisible security”.

Russia has yet to respond to last week’s letters from the U.S. and NATO, which rejected Moscow’s core security requests but signalled willingness to begin negotiations on arms limitation and confidence-building measures.

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