NATO and the United States recently responded formally to Russia’s demands that NATO ban Ukraine from ever joining the alliance and pull back forces from Eastern Europe amidst escalating military tensions across the region.
According to Secretary Blinken, the American response “sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it.”
For weeks, Russia has been demanding that the United States respond in writing to the Kremlin’s demands before it decides on the next step. At the time, Russia insisted it had no plans to invade Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken confirmed that the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, John J. Sullivan, had personally delivered the written response to the Russian ministry.
According to Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general, NATO has also sent its written reply. While the text of the U.S. response was not released, Blinken said the response contained “core principles” on Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Blinken plans to speak with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, once Russian officials had read the American paper and the Russians were “ready to discuss next steps.”
Blinken emphasized that the document suggests “reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercise and maneuvers in Europe,” in addition to nuclear arms control in all of Europe.
It is unclear whether or not the American response will affect the deadly, growing crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It reiterates publicly what we’ve said for many weeks,” said Secretary Blinken.
Although Secretary Blinken said that the U.S. had not ruled out the possibility of future Ukrainian membership in NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded it does so.
However, American officials and President Biden have said there is little chance Ukraine will join NATO anytime soon.
“We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the right of states to choose their security arrangements and alliances,” said Blinken.
Russia demands that the U.S. withdraw weapons and troops withdraw from former Soviet bloc countries that joined NATO in 1997. They also insisted that America remove nuclear weapons from Europe. The United States has said that those demands are “nonstarters.”
Blinken said that the U.S. response was written in close consultation with allies in Europe. “There’s no daylight among the United States and our allies and partners on these matters.”
According to Stoltenberg, NATO’s reply to Russia was similar to American. It contained proposals for areas of specific negotiation about the transparency of military exercises and negotiation about arms control.
Stoltenberg said the statement suggested reopening liaison offices between Moscow and NATO. NATO has increased the readiness of its 5,000-member rapid-response force, which France currently leads. The force is ready to deploy quickly to support alliance members.
“A political solution is still possible,” said Stoltenberg. “But Russia has to engage.”
While the U.S. says it will not release its response publicly, Blinken said he hoped Russia would take the same approach, although Russia is known for defiant negotiating tactics.
“Whether they choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, whether they decide to renew aggression against Ukraine,” continued Blinken, “we’re prepared either way.”