Фото: НАТО/nato.int

Russia’s request for the withdrawal of NATO forces (foreign troops, weapons and equipment) is not only for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe but for all countries that were not members of NATO in the period before 1997. The security guarantees that Russia is seeking from NATO also apply to Romania and Bulgaria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, quoted by Reuters.

Russia’s request for the withdrawal of NATO forces from Romania and Bulgaria was confirmed in a statement to Bulgarian National Radio by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The controversial element of our initiatives mentioned above is formulated very clearly and does not allow for an ambiguous interpretation. It includes the withdrawal of foreign forces, equipment, weapons and other steps to return to the 1997 configuration on the territory of countries that were not then members of NATO. These include Bulgaria and Romania, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said in response to questions in writing before his press conference on January 14.

The other two key issues that Russia is asking NATO and the United States to do are to abandon the deployment of strike systems in the immediate vicinity of the border with Russia and to stop further NATO expansion to the east.

The North Atlantic Alliance currently has 30 members, and North Macedonia was the last member state to join NATO in 2020. In recent years, the Russian Federation has openly opposed our country’s membership in NATO, so the Russian Ambassador to Greece, Andrei Maslov at a briefing in Athens in December 2018 to the Greek authorities expressed Russia’s position that it is against the membership of Macedonia in NATO.

Response to such requests came from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. He said on January 13 that NATO’s door to admitting new members would be open despite Russia’s request to ban Ukraine from joining NATO.

At the same time, NATO members at the NATO-Russia Council meeting rejected Moscow’s demands for the Alliance’s military forces to withdraw from the member states that joined NATO after 1997. NATO members at the meeting have already reiterated their view that NATO membership is a sovereign decision of any independent country and Russia has no veto power.