Red Lines

NATO foreign ministers increase pressure on Moscow. Blinken calls on Russia to relocate its troops. Putin insists on agreements to halt the escalation of conflicts.

MOSCOW/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Yesterday's meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers in Latvia's capital Riga ended with new threats against Russia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Moscow to immediately withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. His outgoing German counterpart Heiko Maas praised the fact that a "common" language was found regarding "Russian troop movements." The grounds, on which NATO ministers claim authority to prohibit Moscow from deploying its own troops in a particular area of its own territory, remain unclear. At the same time, several NATO countries are positioning new forces against Russia. The UK will base tanks and combat vehicles in Germany to be able to move them more quickly toward the Russian border, in the event of an escalation. Russian President Vladimir Putin urgently warns NATO states not to cross Moscow's red lines and demands that NATO ends its "further eastward expansion," while insisting on agreements with "security guarantees” to halt the escalation of conflicts.

October 1962

Regarding the NATO foreign minister's meeting, that ended yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his warning not to cross his country's red lines. Already back in April, Putin declared that Moscow would be forced to react if its red lines were crossed – if necessary, with massive retaliation. He reiterated his warning on November 18, specifying that it included the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure in Ukraine and criticized western states for ignoring his warnings. On Tuesday, the Russian president further clarified the red lines, citing as an example, the possible deployment of an Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Ukraine, such as the one already installed in Romania and which is scheduled to become operational next year in Poland.[1] The Aegis Ashore launching pads can be used to launch offensive cruise missiles.[2] If fired from Ukraine, they could reach Moscow within minutes, rendering defense practically impossible. The consequences of crossing such red lines have also been known in the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

"Eastward Expansion"

Yesterday, Putin added that Moscow would seek the elaboration of concrete agreements with western powers that can provide lasting security. NATO, however, must grant "reliable and long-term security guarantees" that would "rule out any further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to the territory of the Russian Federation."[3] What Putin means by "NATO's eastward expansion" was outlined in another context yesterday by NATO's General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg described how, following the escalation of the conflict over Ukraine, the military alliance, for the first time in its history, deployed "combat ready troops in the eastern part of the Alliance, including the Black Sea, not only in the Baltic region."[4] NATO members also provided Ukraine "political support, practical support: Allies provide training, capacity building, and also military capabilities, equipment." There are "different kinds of support, to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine," Stoltenberg added.[5]

On the way East

Another "NATO eastward expansion" has long since been underway. At the end of November, Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the British military would base a brigade of tanks and armored vehicles - around 250 machines in total, supported by trucks and other infrastructure - in Sennelager training area, in the vicinity of Paderborn, where British forces were previously permanently located until 2020. Under the name "Land Regional Hub," that military training area will assume the same function as the US posts in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, serving as, what is called, "Army Prepositioned Stock" (APS): in the event of war, soldiers from Great Britain will be flown in, mount their military vehicles and immediately move out in the direction of Russia. The current plan foresees the Battle groups of hundreds of soldiers deploying to the Sennelager training area to exercise on the equipment. From there, they could then move on to Estonia, where the UK has been leading a 1,000-strong battle group of NATO troops stationed close to the Russian borders in the Baltic countries and Poland.[6]

NATO's Crisis Response Mechanism

Other measures aimed at Russia have been decided, are in preparation or are at least in discussion. Already back in February, for example, the Biden administration lifted the 25,000 ceiling, set by President Donald Trump for the number of US troops to be stationed in Germany. In April, US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, announced that around 500 more soldiers will be transferred to Germany. On Monday, it was announced that US Armed Forces were jointly preparing other measures with unspecified allies to further "strengthen the combat credible deterrent vis-a-vis Russia."[7] Also on Monday, the Latvian government called on the USA to permanently station troops in Latvia, as well as to install Patriot air defense missiles at its borders with Russia. Additionally, NATO has activated its Crisis Reaction Mechanism, which will generate a joint situation assessment and options for developing eventual military action against Russia.

"A Common Language"

Far from reaching agreements with Moscow that could at least freeze the dangerously escalating conflict, Washington is continuing to exacerbate it. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed yesterday that the United States had evidence that Russia has made "plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine." The plans include "efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large-scale military operations."[8] Blinken did not present his evidence supporting the accusations. However, he called on Russia to immediately withdraw its Armed Forces from its borders with Ukraine. In fact, contrary to what is being suggested by the US Secretary of State, at least a considerable portion of the Russian troops - that the West claims is standing ready for a possible invasion into Ukraine - is located several hundred kilometers from the Ukrainian border in the region of Smolensk. ( reported.[9]) The grounds, on which the US Secretary of State claims authority to prohibit Moscow from deploying its own troops in a particular area of its own territory, remain unclear. Germany's outgoing Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted having said, it "was very important" that "a clear common language was found concerning Russian troop movements."[10]


[1] Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn: Putin warns Russia will act if NATO crosses its red lines in Ukraine. 30.11.2021.

[2] See also Farewell to the INF Treaty (II).

[3] Ukraine-Konflikt: Putin stellt Forderungen an die Nato. 01.12.2021.

[4], [5] Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Riga. 30.11.2021.

[6] Deborah Haynes: British Army restructure sees hundreds of tanks and troops return to Germany after withdrawal less than a year ago. 25.11.2021.

[7] Andrew Eversden: Pentagon’s Global Posture Review emphasizes China, but lacks major strategic changes. 29.11.2021.

[8] David M. Herszenhorn: Blinken urges Russia to ’de-escalate’ and return to diplomacy on Ukraine. 01.12.2021.

[9] See also Nützliche Kriegsszenarien.

[10] USA werfen Russland geplante Aggression in der Ukraine vor. 01.12.2021.