WLadimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, did not want to anticipate his president’s decision on Thursday. The responses from the United States and NATO will be analyzed at leisure, and then the reaction will come, Peskow said. He complained that Russia’s considerations and concerns had not been taken into account. However, neither Peskov nor Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov initially repeated the threat of a “military-technical” reaction if the “security guarantees” demanded in the form of “draft treaties” in mid-December were rejected.
On Wednesday evening, both the American government and Allianz submitted their answers in writing, as announced by Foreign Minister Antony Blinken in Washington and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. The letters were not published, but both summarized the essential contents.
Lavrov said the response was that “serious talks” could be counted on, but only on “secondary issues.” There was “nothing positive” to be found in the answer to the most important question, which was the exclusion of any NATO expansion and the deployment of missile systems. That was no doubt correctly described. Blinken said there would be no change in the Western military alliance’s open-door policy, and Ukraine would not be banned from joining NATO. But they are ready to take confidence-building measures and engage in dialogue. The ball is now in the playing field of the Russians.
“Closely coordinated with Western partners and Ukraine”
There are fears in the American Congress that the Biden administration could go too far in accommodating Moscow with regard to Ukraine’s NATO accession. Blinken also assured that the letter had been closely coordinated with the western partners and Ukraine. He also emphasized that work is being done to increase Ukraine’s defense capabilities. It was also made clear that the Russian demand for the withdrawal of NATO troops and weapons from Eastern Europe was not a basis for discussion. But you can negotiate about mutual controls.
As Stoltenberg put it: “We are ready to listen to Russia’s concerns and to have a real discussion on how to preserve and strengthen the fundamental principles of European security.” This includes the right of each state to choose its own security arrangements . This should correspond to the wording in the five-page letter. He, too, insisted that the alliance “will take all necessary measures to defend and protect all allies.” In fact, NATO is currently cautiously expanding its presence on the eastern flank and considering further reinforcements.
However, Stoltenberg focused on the offer for dialogue. He named three areas where there is “room for progress”: in confidence-building measures, in talks about the security architecture in Europe and about arms control. What he said was more precise and concrete than after the NATO-Russia Council two weeks earlier – a result of the close coordination of all thirty allies in the meantime. The deputy ambassadors had negotiated every word of the reply letter in a number of meetings.