Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attend a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, on February 15, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is not after a war in Europe, as Moscow proposed holding negotiations on security across the continent and amid tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
"Do we want it or not? Of course, not," Putin told a press conference following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Tuesday, in response to a question about whether he ruled out the possibility of a war in Europe.
"This is why we put forward the proposals on the negotiating process that must result in an agreement on ensuring equal security for all states, including our country," the Russian leader stressed.
He said Moscow had yet to receive a substantive and constructive reply to its proposals on security in Europe, but added that Russia had seen "some elements that can be discussed" in the documents received from the United States and NATO.
The Russian president also said he was ready to continue working with the West on security issues to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine, stressing, "We are ready to work further together. We are ready to go down the negotiations track."
In December last year, Moscow asked that NATO deny Ukrainian membership and roll back its military deployments near Russia, demanding legally binding security guarantees. The US and NATO both offered written responses to the Russian requests, and Moscow later said its key demands had been ignored.
The Kremlin said at the time that the Wests proposals contained some important but secondary issues.
Lasting security in Europe possible only with, not against Russia: Scholz
The German chancellor, for his part, said Russia was a crucial player in maintaining security in Europe, stressing that, "For Europeans, it is clear that lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia."
Scholz also welcomed Russias announcement that some troops deployed near Ukraine were being pulled back as a "good sign."
"That we are now hearing that some troops are being withdrawn is in any case a good sign," Scholz told reporters at the press conference in Moscow. "We hope that more follow."
Russias Defense Ministry announced early on Tuesday that some units of the southern and western military districts had completed their exercises near Ukraine and begun to move toward their bases.
Russia and the US-led NATO military alliance have recently been at odds over Ukraine. Western countries have accused Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing 100,000 troops and armaments near the border with that country. Moscow has rejected the allegation, saying the military build-up is defensive in nature and a response to NATOs increased military activity near Russian borders.