Ukraine Crisis

U.S., NATO respond to Russia's security demands

Published : January 27, 2022 17:03 IST

The U.S. and Russia have held intense diplomatic exchanges over the past few weeks. Photo: picture alliance/Zoonar

Washington said it made no concessions, but the move offered a new "diplomatic path" out of the Ukraine crisis.

The United States and NATO said on January 26 that they delivered written replies to security demands that Russia had made. It comes amid heightened tensions and repeated warnings that Russia could be preparing military action against Ukraine. Russia had demanded security guarantees that Ukraine would never join NATO, and that the alliance stops its eastward expansion — which the U.S. and NATO rejected.

A diplomatic path forward

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the document addressed Moscow's concerns and raised those of Washington's allies but made no concessions. "Putting things in writing is... a good way to make sure we're as precise as possible, and the Russians understand our positions, our ideas, as clearly as possible. Right now, the document is with them and the ball is in their court," he told reporters.

Blinken said he would speak with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in the coming days. The letter would not be made public, "because we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed," Blinken said. Blinken reiterated Washington's stance on the Russian demand that Ukraine never becomes a NATO member. "I can't be more clear — NATO's door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment," he said.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance "firmly believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy." "We are now reaching out to Russia once again to try to pursue a path of dialogue and find a political solution," Stoltenberg said, after the alliance sent Moscow a written response to its security demands. "But of course while we are hoping for and working for a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst," he said.

What were Russia's demands?

On January 26, Russia said it had received Washington's response to its security demands from U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan. "The head of the American diplomatic mission handed over a written response of the U.S. administration to the draft bilateral treaty on security guarantees," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following Sullivan's meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.

Last December, Moscow laid out calls for the U.S.-led NATO alliance not to admit new members or establish bases in former Soviet countries. But earlier this week, NATO announced it was dispatching additional fighter jets and ships to Eastern Europe, triggering an angry response from Russia. Moscow said the U.S. and NATO were escalating tensions in the region through "information hysteria" and "concrete actions."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told lawmakers that he would advise President Vladimir Putin on the next steps after receiving Washington's reply. "If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,'' he said. Lavrov had also stressed that Moscow "won't allow our proposals to be drowned in endless discussions."

Ongoing diplomacy

January 26's announcements came as envoys from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France held diplomatic negotiations in Paris under the so-called Normandy format. The talks, which lasted more than eight hours, concluded that the parties agreed to meet again in Berlin for further dialogue, the French presidential palace Elysee said in a statement.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also reportedly head to Washington, D.C., in February for talks with President Joe Biden, according to German newspaper Bild. Germany has so far insisted on the diplomatic path to resolve the crisis. Ukraine recently criticized Berlin for refusing to send weapons, like the U.S. and the U.K. did, saying that the move could hamper diplomatic efforts.

fb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)