The drive from the NATO headquarters in Brussels to the Russian embassy in Belgium in the suburb of Uccle takes half an hour. There, on Wednesday afternoon, a messenger handed over the written response of the 30 members of the defense alliance to Moscow’s demands for new security agreements. In Moscow, US Ambassador John Sullivan personally delivered Washington’s response at the State Department. The letters were not published; instead, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared before the press. The message: we absolutely agree that Russia will not be given a veto over new NATO members and that no NATO troops will be withdrawn from Eastern Europe. Although Moscow is undermining security in Europe, it is ready for negotiations.
Blinken emphasized in Washington that the United States has “core principles that we are committed to upholding and defending.” He explicitly mentioned the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and the right of states to choose their own alliances. Because Russia is continuing to deploy troops near Ukraine, Stoltenberg spoke of a “critical moment” for Euro-Atlantic security and called on Moscow to de-escalate. According to diplomats, the answers summarize what representatives of NATO members have been saying for weeks. The alliance’s five-page paper first emphasizes its own core principles with reference to the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Declaration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) and the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, followed by concrete offers.
Kremlin spokesman sees “not so many reasons for optimism”
Stoltenberg explained this in more detail in Brussels. To improve relations, communication between military officials is to be increased and a “civilian hotline” set up for emergencies. The representations in Brussels and Moscow are to be reopened; the drive through Belgium’s capital to deliver the letter was necessary because Russia had closed its office in November. NATO is also ready to listen to Russia’s concerns and to talk about European security – but then also about the situation around Ukraine. The third topic of conversation he mentioned was the avoidance of conflicts. The OSCE’s “Vienna Document” could be “modernized” to ensure more transparency in military exercises. You could also talk about arms control issues, such as nuclear weapons and land-based medium- and short-range missiles.
Stoltenberg’s assessment of being “far apart” was confirmed in Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the documents were still being studied, but he didn’t see “so many reasons for optimism.” A dialogue is still possible. When Moscow will answer is completely open. The Foreign Ministry said the West had just taken almost a month and a half.