US Responds to Putin’s Demands, But Kremlin Sees Little Cause for Optimism

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The United States gave its answer to Russia’s demands on Wednesday. NATO will also hand over its answer to the Russians today. Both argue for the diplomatic route. But on the Russian side, they see “little reason for optimism”.

 

Russia unveiled two proposed treaties in mid-December to limit NATO and US influence over Russia. Moscow demands a written commitment that Ukraine and Georgia will not join NATO. Moscow is also demanding a withdrawal of NATO troops and armaments from Eastern European countries that joined NATO after 1997.

The proposals would also prohibit the US from establishing military bases in all former Soviet countries that are not members of NATO, using infrastructure “for any military activity” and even “developing bilateral military cooperation” with those countries.

Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said on Wednesday (local time) that the Americans have forwarded their answer to the Russians. The answer would “chart a serious diplomatic way forward, should Russia choose to do so,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

No information was provided on the contents of the letter. The answer will also not be made public, says Blinken, but to a certain extent, it is already known. “Without going into the details of the document, I can tell you that it reiterates what Washington has been saying for weeks and – in a sense – for years: that we defend NATO’s open-door principle.” The US Secretary of State emphasised that Ukraine has the right to choose its allies. However, he did say he was open to dialogue with Moscow. The American expects a follow-up meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days, now that the document is in Moscow.

The ball is now in the court of the Russians, Blinken said. “I think there are important things to work with if Russia is serious about working. And that is up to President Putin. So we’ll see how they react,” he said.

NATO has prepared its own response, which is in line with the letter from the United States. The US response should complement the response from the military treaty organisation. NATO will hand over that written answer on Thursday.

According to diplomats, the answer does not contain any crucial concessions to Moscow. Instead, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance has reiterated its desire to find a “political solution” and encouraged Moscow to take the “way of diplomacy”.

Nevertheless, he added that NATO is ready to send additional troops to the Baltic and Black Seas regions. “There are serious disagreements between NATO and Russia, but it is also necessary to find our common ground to avoid armed conflict,” said the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

According to the Kremlin, NATO and US responses to Russia’s demand for more security guarantees do not sufficiently take into account Moscow’s positions. “On this basis, there is little cause for optimism,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Thursday.

“You cannot say that our views have been taken into account or that there is a willingness to consider our concerns,” Peskov told reporters. However, the Kremlin spokesman further wished to refrain from “conceptual assessments” of the Western response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already read the US response, and it has been confirmed. However, it is not yet clear when Moscow will respond. “Obviously, it will take some time to analyse everything,” said Peskov.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describes the US response as “one that allows us to count on the start of a serious conversation, albeit on secondary issues.” But the document contains “no positive response to the main theme,” it said.

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