The Russian Foreign Ministry said that de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis can be achieved by “withdrawing foreign forces, equipment and weapons, as well as (taking) other measures with the aim of returning to the situation that existed in 1997 in countries that were not members of NATO at that time.”
She added that she was “Romania and Bulgaria”.
In 1997, NATO began steps to include three countries in the former Warsaw Pact, namely Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, and the matter was completely completed in 1999.
What distinguishes these three countries is that they are on the borders of Ukraine, and with Ukraine and Belarus, between Russia and Western Europe.
The year 1997 also witnessed the signing of an agreement between Russia and NATO to regulate relations between the two parties, by building trust, but this agreement was political and non-binding.
NATO pledged at the time to carry out defensive tasks, instead of permanently stationing large combat forces in the territories of the alliance members who were formerly in the Warsaw Pact, but the agreement remained a dead letter, with each party accusing the other of violating the agreement.
In 2004, the alliance included Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and others, and these countries were also formerly under the Warsaw Pact led by the former Soviet Union.
The alliance continued the process of annexing countries in eastern Europe until 2017, when it included the Republic of Montenegro, which angered Moscow at the time,
She condemned what she said was “anti-Russian hysteria” in the tiny republic.
But NATO confirmed on more than one occasion that it would not withdraw its forces from these member states who joined it after 1997, given that those countries constitute about half of the alliance’s members.
On the other hand, Russia considers NATO’s expansion to the east an existential threat, so it has raised it in the current negotiations with the West.