On Wednesday, the Biden administration and NATO reminded Russia that no compromises will be made to Moscow’s primary demands in order to end the Ukraine situation.
The US and NATO, in separate written answers to the Russians, reaffirmed the alliance’s open-door policy for membership, rejected a call to permanently exclude Ukraine from joining, and stated that allied troop and military equipment deployments in Eastern Europe are unavoidable.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated, “There is no change, and there will be no change.” The US and European responses to any Russian invasion of Ukraine would also not be negotiated, he warned, reiterating the refrain that any such intervention would be faced with tremendous repercussions and significant economic costs.
The reactions were not surprising, and they echoed what senior US and NATO officials had been saying for weeks. Nonetheless, they, and the Russian response to them, might determine whether Europe is thrown into another war.
Russia has not yet responded, but Russian officials have warned that if the US and its allies reject its requests, Moscow would immediately take “retaliatory actions.”
The US response did outline areas in which some of Russia’s concerns might be addressed if tensions with Ukraine are de-escalated, as it sought possible off-ramps that would allow Russia to withdraw the estimated 100,000 troops it has deployed near Ukraine’s border without appearing to have lost a battle of wills.
Blinken told reporters in Washington that the contents of the several-page American dossier presented to the Russian Foreign Ministry by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan on Wednesday would not surprise Russia.
“All in all, it lays out a serious diplomatic course for the future.” “Should Russia decide to do so,” he said. “The paper we’ve presented includes the United States’ and our allies’ and partners’ concerns about Russia’s activities that jeopardize security, as well as a principled and realistic assessment of Russia’s concerns and our own ideas for areas where we might be able to find common ground.”
In the coming days, Blinken said he intended to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the reaction. However, he emphasized that Russia, and notably Russian President Vladimir Putin, has the last say on whether to pursue dialogue or confrontation.
He said, “We’ll see how they respond.” “However, there is no doubt in my opinion that there are really constructive things in this text that might be explored if Russia approached this properly and in a spirit of reciprocity with a willingness to increase collective security for all of us.” That is a choice that we cannot make for President Putin.”
Shortly after Blinken’s remarks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the alliance had delivered a different response to Russia, offering to strengthen communications, look into methods to minimize military incidents or mishaps, and talk about weapons control. However, he, like Blinken, opposed any attempt to put a stop to membership.
“We can’t and won’t compromise on the fundamentals that underpin our alliance’s security, as well as security in Europe and North America,” Stoltenberg said. “It’s about nations recognizing their freedom to pick their own course.”
“Russia should avoid using coercive force, harsh language, and harmful operations against friends and other countries.” “Russia should also get its military out of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, where they are stationed without the approval of these nations,” he said.
While refusing to amend NATO’s open-door policy, its relationship with non-ally Ukraine, or alliance troop and military deployments in Eastern Europe, Blinken said the US is open to other proposals to alleviate Russia’s expressed concerns.
The US proposals, which are echoed in the NATO document, include the possibility of negotiations over offensive missile placements and military exercises in Eastern Europe, as well as broad arms control agreements, as long as Russia withdraws its troops from the Ukrainian border and agrees to stop using inflammatory rhetoric to further divide and discord among NATO allies and within Ukraine.
Moscow has requested assurances that NATO will never admit Ukraine or other ex-Soviet countries as members, and that force deployments in former Soviet bloc countries will be reduced. Some of these, such as the membership promise, are unworkable for the US and its allies, resulting in an impasse that many worry would only end in a conflict.
Although Russia has denied intentions to attack Ukraine, the United States and NATO are concerned about Russia massing troops near Ukraine and conducting a series of broad military drills.
Motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia practiced firing live ammunition as part of the drills, while warplanes in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, flew bombing runs, dozens of warships sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers arrived in Belarus for joint war games.
Before the US and NATO answers were provided, Lavrov told Russian MPs that he and other key officials will advise Putin on the next actions.
“Moscow will take the appropriate retaliatory measures if the West continues on its confrontational path,” Lavrov added.
He did say, though, that Russia would not wait indefinitely. He stated, “We will not allow our initiatives to be drowned in prolonged arguments.”
In the midst of the tensions, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and Canada have moved to pull some of its ambassadors and dependents out of Kyiv, a move President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attempted to downplay Tuesday as part of a “complicated diplomatic game.”
The United States encouraged Americans in Ukraine to consider leaving on Wednesday, saying the security situation “remains uncertain owing to the increasing danger of Russian military intervention and might deteriorate with little warning.”
Following the deposition of a pro-Kremlin president in Kyiv in 2014, Moscow grabbed the Crimean Peninsula and backed a separatist conflict in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland. Over 14,000 people have been died in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed insurgents, and efforts to achieve a solution have stagnated.
On the separatist war, envoys from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany met in Paris for more than eight hours on Wednesday. Despite the lack of progress, they agreed to reconvene in Berlin in two weeks for additional negotiations.
The parties endorse “unconditional respect” for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, according to the French president’s office.
The meetings centered on the 2015 Minsk peace deal, which sought to end the conflict, but the statement made no mention of current worries about a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Dmitry Kozak, a Kremlin ambassador, said, “Those are other topics, and we didn’t address it.”
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian delegate, was cautiously enthusiastic about Wednesday’s negotiations, which he described as the first substantial step forward since December 2019. He also admitted that they didn’t explicitly address current border tensions or reconcile historical disagreements.
“Of course, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I claimed we all want greater and faster outcomes,” Yermak added. “Of course, nothing is more important than the desire of the Ukrainian people to end the conflict, to reclaim our lands and people.”
The Ukrainians, according to Yermak, have frequently addressed the problem of forces massed on the border. “This is the true danger,” he declared. “I have stated unequivocally today that we anticipate de-escalation not only around seized territory, but also near Ukrainian borders in general.”
Various interpretations of the Minsk Accord, according to Kozak, have remained a key stumbling point. In two weeks, he added, the four sides would try again to achieve an agreement on the matter.
Kozak said that Russia is not a party to the conflict and that Ukraine is hesitant to engage in negotiations with rebels as stated in the Minsk accord. He said that no progress had been made on critical sections of the deal, which required Ukraine to award special status to rebel territories and then hold elections.