In exchange for a reduction of troops on the border with neighboring Ukraine, the Russians want, among other things, a guarantee that Ukraine will never join NATO. In addition, they demand that all NATO units leave the member states that were once part of the communist Eastern bloc. Those demands are not negotiable, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized on Thursday evening in Brussels.
Other topics can be discussed, such as a joint reduction of the arsenal – ‘dialogue is in both interests’, Stoltenberg said – but NATO will follow the principle that every country, including Ukraine, has the right to choose its allies. according to him never fumble.
Earlier in the evening, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Russian demands are unnegotiable, but that he is also open to further dialogue with Moscow. He declined to comment on the precise content of the written reply, which was personally conveyed by the American ambassador in Moscow.
The Kremlin had asked the Americans and NATO to provide a written response to their demands, and according to Stoltenberg and Blinken, America and NATO show that they do want to work out a deal with Russia. “Putting things like this on paper is a good way to oblige us to be as precise as possible, so that the Russians have our views and ideas as clearly as possible,” said Blinken. “It’s now up to the Russians to decide how to react.”
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told Interfax news agency that they will read and study the response, but it will take them some time.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to heighten tensions on the border with Ukraine by sending more and more troops and equipment, now including to neighboring Belarus. According to Moscow, these are only exercises, but “we have seen before that an exercise served as a cover for an attack,” Stoltenberg said.