The United States and NATO’s Western Security Alliance responded to Russia’s security demands in separate written statements amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Wednesday.
In December 2021, Russia demanded that NATO never add Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as members, and that NATO members withdraw their troops in Central and Eastern Europe. Since then, Moscow has also deployed some 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons to its borders with northeastern Ukraine, but denies planning an attack.
Washington and NATO allies have rejected Russia’s demands, but have put forward a number of proposals and are seeking dialogue with Moscow.
Blinken told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John Sullivan personally delivered the Biden administration’s written responses to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow. He said the proposals put forward by the United States could alleviate Russian concerns while bolstering the security of NATO members.
The Biden administration, in a document delivered to Moscow, made clear the core principles it is committed to protecting, including “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” Blinken told reporters.
“We have considered taking mutual transparency measures regarding the deployment of forces in Ukraine, as well as confidence-building measures regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe,” Blinken said.
“And we are looking to other areas where we see potential for progress, including missile-related arms control in Europe, our interest in a follow-up agreement to the New START treaty that covers all nuclear weapons, and ways to improve transparency and stability,” he added.
Under the New START treaty, the US and Russia are limited to an equal number of deployed strategic warheads and the weapons that carry them.
Blinken said the US response was “fully in line with Ukraine and our European allies and partners.”
“I’m looking forward to talking to [Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days after Moscow familiarizes himself with the document, and is ready to discuss the next steps,” Blinken said. “There should be no doubt about the seriousness of our intentions when it comes to diplomacy, and we are acting with the same attention and strength to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses and prepare a quick, cohesive response to further Russian aggression.”
Shortly after Blinken’s press conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an online briefing that the alliance had sent a separate response to Russia.
Stoltenberg told reporters that there are three main areas where NATO sees room for progress: NATO-Russia relations; European security; and risk reduction, transparency and arms control.
In particular, Stoltenberg called for the restoration of communication and diplomatic relations between Russia and the 30-member alliance in order to help improve relations and prevent military incidents or accidents.
He also said that NATO was ready to enter into “a real conversation with Moscow about how to maintain and strengthen the fundamental principles of European security.”
“This includes the right of each country to choose its own security measures,” he said, urging Moscow “to refrain from the use of coercive force, aggressive rhetoric and malicious actions directed against allies and other countries.”
“Russia must also withdraw its troops from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, where they are stationed without the consent of these countries,” he added.
NATO has also proposed a number of approaches to increase military transparency and discuss arms control, including with respect to nuclear weapons and missiles. “These areas represent an agenda for constructive dialogue, and I have invited NATO countries and Russia to a series of meetings to consider all these issues in more detail in the Russia-NATO Council,” he said.
Like the United States, NATO rejected any attempt to block membership.
“We cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which the security of our alliance is based, as well as security in Europe and North America,” Stoltenberg said, adding later: “It is about respect for nations and their right to choose their own path”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Russia would “study” the NATO proposal.
“Let’s read. Study it. The partners studied our project for almost a month and a half,” he said.
Before responding to Russian demands, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian lawmakers on Wednesday that he and other senior officials would advise Putin on next steps, the Associated Press reported.
“If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,” he said, adding: “We will not let our proposals drown in endless discussions.”
The U.S. State Department on January 23 ordered the evacuation of family members of employees of its embassy in Kiev in Ukraine and urged all Americans in Ukraine to “consider leaving now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
Separately, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told Ukrainian citizens on January 24 that there is currently “no reason to believe” that Moscow is preparing an invasion anytime soon and there is no need for citizens. “have [their] the bags are packed.
President Joe Biden is considering sending US troops to Eastern Europe to join forces to defend Ukraine and allied nations. On January 24, the Pentagon announced that, if the situation warrants, 8,500 U.S. military personnel are on “high alert for deployment.”