Zelensky meets with Western leaders, Russia seeks security guarantees from the US and NATO

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Zelensky meets with Western leaders, Russia seeks security guarantees from the US and NATO

Between December 12 and 18, the Joint Forces Operation recorded 39 ceasefire violations on the part of Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. Unfortunately, four Ukrainian soldiers were injured, and one killed, as a result of occupation aggression.

Last week, Western and Russian leaders exchanged statements and warnings vis-à-vis the buildup of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border. On December 12, Germany’s new foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said that Russian hostility toward Ukraine is “a factor” in the delay in certification of the Nord Stream pipeline—the first time Germany has explicitly linked the delay to Russian actions.

On December 15, the leaders of the EU, of the EU member states, and of the Eastern Partnership countries met in Brussels for the sixth Eastern Partnership summit. During this summit, President Zelensky met with French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz, a meeting of the Normandy Four without Russia; the leaders discussed peace efforts in Donbas and agreed to proceed in the Normandy format. The following day, Zelensky met with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Stoltenberg reaffirmed the Alliance’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and Zelensky reiterated Ukraine’s desire for Euro-Atlantic integration.

On December 16, a Russian court of justice withdrew documents that proved the presence of the Russian military in the occupied regions of Donbas after journalists discovered and reported on the documents. On November 10, the Kirovsky District Court in the city of Rostov-on-Don published its verdict on a corruption case involving a local company in charge of ration supplies for troops. The verdict stated that the sentenced clerk was in charge of provisional supplies for “the Russian Federation’s military formations deployed to the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic territory” in 2018 and 2019. Picked up by Ukrainian media on December 16, the document was deleted from the Rostov court’s website later that day, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov called the reference to the Russian military in the verdict “a mistake.”

On December 17, Russia’s Foreign Ministry published two documents proposing security guarantees with the West: a draft bilateral treaty with the United States and a draft multilateral agreement with NATO members. The treaty with the US included proposals that neither party will deploy short- or intermediate-range missiles abroad in areas where the weapons could reach targets inside the other’s territory; the US will not open military bases in post-Soviet countries not already NATO members or develop military cooperation with these states; and neither party will use the territory of other countries to prepare or conduct attacks against the other.

The multilateral agreement with NATO featured proposals including that NATO will not expand further east, must commit to excluding Ukrainian membership, and will not conduct any military activity in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, or Central Asia. US and NATO leaders have responded diplomatically, saying they have taken the proposals into consideration but, as NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said, any dialogue with Moscow “would also need to address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on core principles and documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners, such as Ukraine.”