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US backs down, responds to Russia's demands, seeks dialogue

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Russia and Ukraine during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, US, January 26, 2022. (Reuters photo)

After ratcheting up tensions with Russia, the United States now appears to be backing down. Washington has delivered written replies to sweeping Russian security demands and sought dialogue over Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US delivered on Wednesday the written response to Russian security demands that Moscow has called for.

The United States claims that Russia has been amassing thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine to attack Ukraine. Moscow has rejected the allegations and said the troop build-up is defensive.

Washington has insisted upon expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and the nations of the defunct Warsaw Pact, since the Cold War ended. Russia has vowed to counter any such Western attempts and made security demands.  

Blinken said that US ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan handed over the document in person to The Kremlin on Wednesday that addressed Russia's concerns and raised those of the United States and its allies.

The US secretary did not provide details what was in the document, but said it was sent with the approval of President Joe Biden and that Biden was involved in its drafting.

He told reporters the document has a principled and pragmatic evaluation of Russia’s concerns. He added that the United States was open to dialogue.

"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 said.

“We made clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” Blinken said.  

He also said that Washington reiterated its openness to discussions with Moscow on a “reciprocal” basis to address the security concerns in Moscow, but also the concerns for the US and its allies. 

“The document 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,” Blinken said.

“All told it sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it,” he stated.

Earlier, Russia warned of "appropriate measures" against the West if The Kremlin doesn't receive a constructive response from the United States on its security demands.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated Moscow's stance once again on Wednesday, saying it would take unspecified "appropriate measures" if Washington and its NATO allies refused to provide Russia with the security guarantees it is demanding.

This comes after Biden said on Tuesday he would consider imposing direct economic sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin if he orders an invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said there were no plans to send American troops to Ukraine, but said he would consider imposing economic sanctions personally targeting Putin and that there would be "enormous consequences" if Russia invaded.

Speaking in Washington, DC, Biden told reporters that the 8,500 troops put on high alert to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe “are part of a NATO operation, not a sole U.S. operation.”

“I made it clear to President Putin that we have a sacred obligation, Article 5 obligation to our NATO allies. And that if, in fact, he continued to build up and/or was to move, we would be reinforcing those troops,” Biden said.

“I’ve spoken with every one of our NATO allies … and we’re all on the same page,” he added. “We’ve got to make it clear that there’s no reason for anyone, any member of NATO, to worry whether or not … we, NATO, would come to their defense.”

US officials said Monday the Pentagon was preparing up to 8,500 US troops to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe. 

“The United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us, our allies, or partners,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the [NATO Response Force] or if other situations developed,” at the direction of Biden.

“All told, the number of forces that the secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel,” Kirby said.

Meanwhile, an American aircraft loaded with military equipment and munitions landed in Ukraine, carrying the third such arms shipments supplied to Kyiv amid escalating tensions between the West and Russia.

The United States has committed more than $650 million in security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total since 2014, when the then-Ukrainian territory of the Crimean Peninsula voted in a referendum to fall under Russian sovereignty.

The second batch of US military equipment had arrived in Kyiv on Sunday.

Several NATO members such as Britain, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands have already sent consignments of weapons and warships to the region amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

Western governments accuse Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine. Moscow rejects the allegation and insists that its border deployments are defensive in nature.

 


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