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17 Dec, 2021 06:53

Russia prepared to talk with NATO in 'neutral country'

Russia prepared to talk with NATO in 'neutral country'

Russia is ready to go head-to-head with NATO to discuss concerns over the risk of the bloc expanding closer towards its borders in Eastern Europe amid a stand-off between Western nations and Moscow, the Kremlin has insisted.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the country is prepared to hold consultations, remarking that Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov will be “ready to fly to any neutral country at any time to start the talks.”

The Kremlin official added that Russia is keen to “start negotiations on the drafts of these documents immediately.”

According to Peskov, Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov gave Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to US President Joe Biden, “clarification on the security guarantees that were given to the American side through the diplomatic channels” the day before.

The White House confirmed the telephone call between the two on Wednesday in a statement which mentioned that Sullivan had reiterated Washington’s “strong concerns about the Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine.” He also emphasized that the US “will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies and partners as we seek to address security and strategic matters through diplomacy.” 

Peskov’s remarks follow after Biden and Putin met via a secure video-link last week. A readout of the call from the Kremlin noted that Moscow said it is “seriously interested” in obtaining “reliable and firm legal guarantees” ruling out NATO’s expansion further eastwards and the deployment of “offensive strike weapons systems in countries adjacent to Russia.”

The Russian leader’s proposal came in response to Biden’s “concerns” about his country’s troops allegedly threatening Ukraine, which has long held aspirations to join NATO. Putin, however, insisted that it was the US-led military bloc “making dangerous attempts to conquer” the country’s territory and “building up its military potential at our borders.”

Ukraine’s intelligence service and Western officials have sounded the alarm several times in recent weeks that Moscow could soon invade its neighbor. The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected the accusations, instead expressing its unease over the eastern European nation’s hopes to eventually join NATO.

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the expansion of the US-led military bloc further into Eastern Europe is a red line for Moscow and that Kiev’s potential accession is unacceptable.

“Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been repeatedly assured that NATO’s jurisdiction and military forces will not move an inch eastwards,” the diplomatic representative said. “All these promises have been forgotten and not fulfilled. The result is the current sad state of European security.” 

Putin announced at the beginning of December that he is intent on receiving “legal guarantees” ruling out the bloc’s expansion towards Russia.