NATO’s Deployment Areas

In the run-up to the Chancellor’s trip to Kiev and Moscow, government advisors point to violations of treaties by the West at Russia’s expense. Kiev questions warnings of a Russian invasion.

BERLIN/KIEV/MOSCOW (Own report) – Shortly before German Chancellor Olaf Scholz makes his trip to Kiev and Moscow, the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) recalls the West’s successive shifts in the European military balance of forces carried out at Russia’s expense. The SWP cites, for example, the blockage of the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty), the disregard of the NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security already since 2007, as well as Europe’s first redrawing of borders since 1990, “subsequent to a previous use of force” – by the recognition of Kosovo in February 2008. Besides, the right of a free choice of alliance is to be seen in the context of subsequent norms, that “are binding on alliances as well.” These indications lend plausibility to Moscow’s current demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion. The chancellor’s trip will be overshadowed by various western states calling on their citizens to leave Ukraine, along with their pulling out embassy personnel – Germans, as well – and withdrawing military instructors. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, questions US contentions of an imminent Russian invasion.

“Leave on Short Notice”

Over the weekend, the German government by and large followed US appeals to leave Ukraine as soon as possible. The Biden administration had previously claimed that it has access to information indicating that a Russian attack on Ukraine is imminent; even a concrete date was given – the day after tomorrow, February 16. Already last Thursday, Washington had called on US citizens to immediately leave Ukraine; it had also withdrawn its embassy staff, pulled out US military instructors from the country and ordered US personnel with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in East Ukraine to return. Numerous western countries have followed suit over the weekend. For example, British and Canadian military personnel were called on to leave Ukraine. The German foreign ministry has issued a travel alert and demanded: “Check whether your presence is indispensable. If this is not the case, leave on short notice.” Additionally, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced that German embassy personnel, who are not absolutely essential, and the staff of German development organizations should leave Ukraine along with the families of the remaining diplomats.

Deviating Information

The western states’ current approach contrasts significantly from the level of information in Ukraine. For example, over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quoted saying the allegations being spread by the West was causing panic, and did not correspond to the information available in Kiev. Apparently, Washington had not specified its allegations to directly affected Ukraine. “In case you or anyone else has supplementary information concerning a 100 percent certain invasion on February 16, please share that information with us,” pleaded Zelensky.[1] This is not the first time that he has contradicted warnings of an invasion from the USA. In mid-January, for example, he had insisted that the danger of a Russian invasion is “no greater” than it had been: “the only thing that has grown is the hype.”[2] In late January, Zelensky explicitly accused foreign journalists of panic mongering: “Are tanks rolling around on our streets, for example?” The feeling that this is what is going on, comes through western reporting, when one “does not live here" in Ukraine and can therefore be convinced of the contrary. “As soon as the White House understands that there are certain risks, they are constantly talking about them,” explained Zelensky. “In my opinion that is a mistake.”[3]

“A Better Understanding”

The renewed escalation of tensions forms the backdrop behind German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ visit to Kiev today, Monday, and to Moscow tomorrow. In Kiev, it is reported that, alongside the current crisis Scholz will also address the question of German economic aid to Ukraine. The fact that the leading western powers have called on their citizens to immediately leave Ukraine is causing substantial damage to the country’s economy. On the other hand, in Moscow, Scholz intends to repeat the standard cliché – the threat of crippling sanctions, an indication of the alleged unity of the West – to then, however, primarily seek to attain “a better understanding” of the exact objectives the Russian government is pursuing in the current conflict. It will also be a question of whether, for example a “more substantial dialog” to resolve the current crisis is possible within the Minsk Format, at the NATO-Russia Council or at the OSCE level.[4] Within the Minsk Format, Berlin and Paris would be leading the western side, while in the NATO-Russia Council – unlike with the bilateral negotiations between Moscow and Washington – they would at least be direct participants. Within the OSCE framework, Berlin would benefit from the fact that the current Secretary General is Helga Schmid, a senior German diplomat with many years of experience, also in the cabinets of Foreign Ministers Klaus Kinkel and Josef Fischer.

“No Arms Control Regulations”

In a recent analysis, published shortly before Scholz’ trip, the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) reflected, back on the basis for Russian demands for a halt of NATO’s eastward expansion and security guarantees. They also involve commitments made in the NATO-Russia Founding Act in May 1997 and during the OSCE summit in Istanbul in November 1999, but have not been honored by the West. As the SWP notes, the 1999 Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe agreed on in Istanbul, for example, was ratified by ‘Russia in 2004, but was then thwarted by the ratification blockade of the United States. The Baltic states, which joined NATO in 2004, are not withing the CFE regime; therefore, as SWP points out, they are “under no legally binding arms control regulations,” providing NATO new “potential deployment areas.” Already in 2007, Washington, using its perpetual deployment rotation of combat troops to Romania and Bulgaria, has created a permanent military presence in two new NATO countries, in violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act.[5] Also with most of the western countries’ recognition of Kosovo in February 2008, “European borders were redrawn subsequent to the use of force and without approval of the UN Security Council for the first time, since the Paris Charter” – all this at Russia’s expense.

“Not at the Expense of Others”

The SWP also points out that the argument being used by the West against Moscow of the right of states to freely choose their alliance, does appear, in fact, in various agreements, such as, the European Security Charter, but it does not stand in isolation. SWP reminds that the Security Charter stipulates that “no state and no organization” can claim “primary responsibility for maintaining European security”: the right to equal security applies to all. Therefore, “countries should mutually respect the security interests and not reinforce their own security at the expense of others.”[6] However, the latter threatens to be the case if NATO accepts Ukraine’s membership and thereby obtains “more deployment areas at Russia’s borders.” SWP also explains that the OSCE Security Agreements are not comprised solely of the right to choose one’s alliance. They are more “complex.” “They also bind the alliances.”


[1] AA: Deutsche sollen Ukraine verlassen. 12.02.2022.

[2] Gefahren eines russischen Einmarschs laut Selenskyj „nicht größer geworden“. 20.01.2022.

[3] Nicht nur Kriegsangst: Was Kiew besorgt. 01.02.2022.

[4] Markus Wehner: „Extrem gefährlich“. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.02.2022.

[5], [6] Wolfgang Richter: Ukraine im Nato-Russland-Spannungsfeld. SWP-Aktuell Nr. 11. Berlin, Februar 2022.