Kremlin offers frosty response to Blinken letter as world waits for Putin’s next move
The Kremlin has given its response to U.S. security proposals that were hand-delivered to Moscow on Wednesday, saying it believes Russian views have not been taken into account.
While President Vladimir Putin has read the documents and will take time to study them, “it cannot be said that our views were taken into account, or that a readiness to take our concerns into account was demonstrated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday, Reuters reported.
Likening current tensions in Europe as reminiscent of the Cold War, Peskov said it would take time for Moscow to review the U.S.’ response and that “it would be silly to expect a response on the next day.”
Talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken are expected in the next few days, however, with Blinken noting Wednesday that he believed discussions would continue “after Moscow has had a chance to read the paper and is ready to discuss next steps.”
The reaction from the Kremlin comes a day after the U.S. delivered its written responses to Russia’s security demands — including that Ukraine is never allowed to join the U.S. and Europe’s military alliance NATO, and that the organization rolls back its deployments in Eastern Europe.
In its response, which was given to the Kremlin by the U.S.’ ambassador in Moscow, the U.S. repeated its previous refusal to concede to such demands, sticking instead to its commitment to NATO’s “open-door” policy.
At the same time, Blinken told reporters in a press briefing that the U.S.’ response also offered Russia “a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it.”
“We’re open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy, and we’re prepared to move forward where there is the possibility of communication and cooperation if Russia de-escalates its aggression toward Ukraine, stops the inflammatory rhetoric, and approaches discussions about the future of security in Europe in a spirit of reciprocity.”
‘No positive reaction’
Russia has repeatedly denied it is planning to invade Ukraine despite multiple reports that it has amassed around 100,000 troops and military hardware at various points along its border with Ukraine. Tensions have been high with its neighbor since 2014, when it invaded and annexed Crimea. It has also supported a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine, provoking low-level fighting between separatists and Ukrainian troops ever since.
Putin has said that Russia can place its troops wherever it likes on its territory, and Russia has accused the West of stoking hostilities and hysteria in the region.
The U.S. and NATO are not prepared to take Russia at its word. NATO has placed its forces on standby and reinforced its positions in Eastern Europe, with more ships and fighter jets being sent to the region. The U.S., meanwhile, has put thousands of troops on heightened alert, meaning they are ready to be deployed to the region if the crisis escalates.
Lavrov said Thursday that the U.S.’ response “allows us to expect the start of a serious conversation but on secondary issues.”
“On the main question, there’s no positive reaction in this document,” he said, according to the Interfax news service.
Before Russia had received the U.S.’ response, Lavrov said he had made it clear to Blinken “that any further disregard for the legitimate concerns of the Russian Federation, which are associated primarily with the continued military exploration of Ukraine by the United States and its NATO allies against the background of the largescale deployment of the alliance’s forces and weapons near our borders, would have the most serious consequences.”
At the time, Lavrov had said such consequences were avoidable “if Washington positively responds to our draft agreements on security guarantees. We expect to receive a written reaction to each paragraph from the U.S. side next week.”
Analysts agree that all eyes are now on Putin as the guessing game continues over what he will do next. Summing up that sentiment, Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, put it in a research note Thursday:
“All eyes [are] on Putin, will he raise or fold in this high stakes poker game?”
What happens next?
The U.S. and its European allies in NATO will be closely watching for Russia’s reaction in the coming hours and days.
Blinken said the U.S., which has led international crisis talks and diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions between Russia and Ukraine, had “fully coordinated with Ukraine and our European allies and partners” when drafting its responses to Russia, and “sought their input and incorporated it into the final version delivered to Moscow.”
He added that NATO will deliver to Moscow its own paper with ideas and concerns about collective security in Europe — and that the paper fully reinforces the U.S.’ response, and vice versa.
The White House had shared its response paper with Congress but Blinken said the administration would not be releasing the document publicly “because we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks. We hope and expect that Russia will have the same view and will take our proposals seriously.”