US Responds to Russia’s Security Demands, Renewing Call for Diplomacy

The United States has provided its written response to Russia’s security demands after consulting with NATO allies and European partners, including Ukraine, while renewing calls for U.S.-Russia diplomatic talks. 

“The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security — a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday at a press conference. 

U.S. officials have said Washington and Moscow could still find consensus and see potential for progress, including on issues such as arms control related to missiles in Europe. 

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the document in person to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. NATO separately transmitted to Russia its own paper about European security, described by officials as a few pages in length. 

U.S. officials declined to elaborate on specifics. Moscow’s security demands include a pause of NATO’s eastward expansion, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as a rollback of NATO troops in Eastern Europe. The U.S. has dismissed those demands as nonstarters while offering dialogue with Russia on issues including military exercises and transparency, as well as the placement of missiles. 

“We’ve addressed the possibility of reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe,” Blinken said. “We are acting with equal focus and force to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and prepare a swift united response to further Russian aggression.” 

The U.S. has laid out its grave concerns over possible further Russian military aggression against Ukraine while requesting a follow-up discussion between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday said Ukraine had no objections to the U.S. responses to Russia, which are seen as part of negotiations to avert Moscow’s military escalation against Kyiv. Kuleba added that Russia was trying to sow panic in Ukraine. 

“The number of Russian troops massed along the border of Ukraine and in the occupied territories of Ukraine is large (and) … poses a threat,” Kuleba said ​during a Wednesday press briefing. “However, at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for the full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border.” 

While the U.S. would not rule out an imminent military move by Russia against Ukraine, a senior State Department official noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin may not want to upset China when the country is hosting the opening ceremony of Winter Olympics. 

“We certainly see every indication that (Putin) is going to use military force sometime perhaps now and middle of February,” said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday during a virtual event with Yalta European Strategy, a European security forum. 

“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4 — the opening ceremony — and Putin is expected to be there,” added Sherman. “I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine. So that may affect his timing and his thinking.” 

Some analysts agreed with the assessment, noting Russia’s military logistics “have not yet been fully activated to start massive military operations.” 

“The Winter Olympics in China, to be held between 4-20 February, might offer some respite,” said Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program of London-based Chatham House. “To safeguard relations with Beijing, Moscow may avoid repeating its actions of August 2008, when Russia took military action against Georgia, literally during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics.” 

In Kyiv, the U.S. embassy is urging American citizens in the country to consider departing now, citing an “unpredictable” security situation that “can deteriorate with little notice.” 

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian officials rejected the prospect of U.S. sanctions against Putin, one of several proposed responses if Russian forces were to invade neighboring Ukraine. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such sanctions would be “destructive” but not politically painful. 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of “severe” and “enormous” consequences for Putin — including personal sanctions against Putin himself — if the Russian leader mobilizes troops standing ready to strike along the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian intelligence officials put troop estimates at 127,000. 

VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara, Anita Powell and Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

 

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