The United States’ rejection of Russia’s key security demand that Ukraine be barred from ever joining NATO leaves “little ground for optimism,” Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov said Thursday before signaling that there is still a chance for diplomacy.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday that the written response had been delivered to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reiterated that the US would stand by its commitment to NATO’s “open door” policy that could allow Ukraine to join the alliance in the future.
“Right now, the document is with them, and the ball is in their court,” Blinken said.
But Peskov said the responses from the US and NATO show that Russia’s concerns had been ignored.
“Based on what our colleagues said yesterday, it’s absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents … we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account,” he told reporters.
At the same time, Peskov added, “there always are prospects for continuing a dialogue, it’s in the interests of both us and the Americans.”
Tensions between Washington and Moscow have been escalating in recent weeks as approximately 120,000 Russian troops mass along Ukraine’s border and Moscow’s forces enter Belarus for purported military exercises.
Along with the insistence that Ukraine never become a NATO member, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that the US and its allies draw back troops and missiles stationed in Eastern Europe — an ask that the US also dismissed as a non-starter.
The responses from the US and NATO were not made public, but Blinken said both expressed a willingness to begin dialogue on arms control and limiting the size of military exercises in the region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the US response contains some elements that could lead to “the start of a serious talk on secondary issues” but pointed out that “the document contains no positive response on the main issue” of NATO membership.
The American answer has been sent to Putin, who will decide Russia’s response, Lavrov added.
The Russian president warned last month that there would be a “military-technical” response if the US rejected his security guarantees.
He also claimed that the US and NATO were provoking a showdown.
“Russia has been forced to respond at every step,” Putin said at the time. “The situation kept worsening and worsening, deteriorating and deteriorating. And here we are today, in a situation when we’re forced to resolve it somehow.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, commenting before Russia’s reaction, said Moscow and Kiev would likely continue diplomatic talks for the next two weeks.
Kuleba added that Ukraine was preparing for all options, but emphasized that Russia was currently working to destabilize the Kiev government through cyber attacks and misinformation campaigns.
“We understand that a military operation is something they keep in the pocket, it’s not something they put ahead of other options,” he said.
With Post wires