Thursday, February 2, 2023

US ready either way: Blinken to Moscow

WASHINGTON

The United States is “ready either way” in handling the escalating Ukraine crisis, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Moscow on Wednesday as the Biden administration’s top envoy delivered a letter to the Russian government in this regard.
“All told, it sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it,” Blinken told reporters at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department soon after US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the documents to the Russian government in Moscow.
“The document we have 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,” he said.
“We make 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. We have addressed the possibility of reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and manoeuvres in Europe,” Blinken added.
The United States, he said, is open to dialogue.
“We prefer diplomacy and we are 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,” Blinken said.
America’s responses are fully coordinated with Ukraine and its European allies and partners, with whom it has been consulting continuously for weeks, he added.
“We sought their input and incorporated it into the final version delivered to Moscow,” he said.
Later, Blinken briefed Congressional leaders on this. America’s actions over the past week have sharpened the choice facing Russia now, he said.
“We have laid out a diplomatic path. We have lined up steep consequences should Russia choose further aggression. We have stepped forward with more support for Ukraine’s security and economy. And we and our allies and partners are united across the board,” the US secretary of state said. “Now we will continue to press forward and prepare. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way,” he added.
Shortly after Blinken spoke, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the alliance had sent a separate reply to Russia with an offer to improve communications, examine ways to avoid military incidents or accidents, and discuss arms control. But, like Blinken, he rejected any attempt to halt membership.
“We cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which the security of our alliance, and security in Europe and North America rest,” Stoltenberg said. “This is about respecting nations and their right to choose their own path.”
“Russia should refrain from coercive force posturing, aggressive rhetoric and malign activities directed against allies and other nations. Russia should also withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova where they are deployed without these countries’ consent,” he said.
While flatly refusing to consider any changes to NATO’s open-door policy, its relationship with non-ally Ukraine, or allied troop and military deployments in Eastern Europe, Blinken said the US is open to other ideas to ease Russia’s stated concerns.
The US proposals, echoed in the NATO document, include the potential for negotiations over offensive missile placements and military exercises in Eastern Europe as well as broad arms control agreements as long as Russia withdraws its troops from the Ukrainian border and agrees to halt inflammatory rhetoric designed to deepen divisions and discord among the allies and within Ukraine itself.
Moscow has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members and that the alliance will roll back troop deployments in former Soviet bloc nations. Some of these, like the membership pledge, are nonstarters for the US and its allies, creating a seemingly intractable stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has plans to attack Ukraine, but the US and NATO are worried about Russia massing its troops near Ukraine and conducting a series of sweeping military manoeuvres.
As part of the drills, motorised infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia practised firing live ammunition, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea performed bombing runs, dozens of warships sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers arrived in Belarus for joint war games.

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