U.S. President Joe Biden, who said on Wednesday that he wants to launch talks with Russia alongside largest NATO members in Europe, might be after restored weapons control efforts, Kadri Liik, senior research fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said.
"I believe that what Biden wants to discuss with Russia is conventional arms control in Europe, especially in the vicinity of Ukraine and on the Black Sea. But it cannot be ruled out that the Baltic Sea situation will also come up," Viik said on the Vikerraadio "Uudis+" program on Thursday. "I see it as a way back to former agreements," she added.
Liik pointed to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty that prescribed ceilings on NATO and Warsaw Pact countries' military presence in Europe that Russia left in 2015 after claiming NATO was in breach.
"Troop movements around Ukraine are causing anxiety today as nothing regulates them anymore. A part of this anxiety is surely paranoid – Putin seemingly believing NATO will build bases in Ukraine is a clear exaggeration. However, we can see Russia massing troops on the Ukrainian border as its response, which we in turn do not like. It could be largely, although not completely, avoided if we had agreements to regulate such things," the expert said.
Russia wants to be consulted
Liik agreed that while willingness to talk to Russia could be interpreted as indulgence, simply ignoring Moscow is not a sustainable solution either.
"It is a concession if our position is that NATO can expand where it pleases without Russia having any say in the matter. However, I find this position to be equally unviable as Russia has demonstrated since 2008 (when it attacked Georgia – ed.) that it has enough strength to do very unpleasant things that cost human lives," Liik said. "I believe we need to talk to Russia about these things," she added.
Asked whether leading NATO allies understand the concerns of the Baltics and other states neighboring Russia, Liik said they certainly do. She added that Biden could have consulted with the president of Poland before calling Putin. "It would have been a simple gesture, while it would have prevented a lot of undue anxiety."
"It is a fact in international politics that some countries think differently than we do, and if we cannot dictate to them our terms, we need to try and negotiate with them. In cases where the alternative is extremely unpleasant, such as today. And I also believe this development to be a good thing for Ukraine as I'm afraid Russia would really do something unseemly otherwise. And the West could not stop it. The West is not prepared to fight a war against Russia to protect Ukraine," Liik also said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski