MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia has received a NATO proposal to commence talks on Moscow’s security concerns on Jan. 12 and is considering it, TASS news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying on Sunday.
Russia, which has unnerved the West with a troop buildup near Ukraine, last week unveiled a wish list of security proposals it wants to negotiate, including a promise NATO would give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.
“We have already received this (NATO) offer, and we are considering it,” TASS quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
The United States and Ukraine say Russia may be preparing an invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbour. Russia denies that and says it is Ukraine’s growing relationship with NATO that has caused the standoff to escalate. It has compared it to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia wanted to avoid conflict but needed an “immediate” response from the United States and its allies to its demands for security guarantees. Moscow has said it expects talks with U.S. officials on the subject to start in January in Geneva.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said some of Russia’s security proposals are obviously unacceptable, but that Washington will respond with more concrete ideas on the format of any talks.
In an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation” television show, Vice President Kamala Harris said Washington has been in direct conversations with Moscow about the issue and reiterated the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“We’ve been very clear that we are prepared to issue sanctions like you’ve not seen before,” Harris said, but declined to elaborate on the specifics of the sanctions.
The United States, the European Union and the Group of Seven have all warned Putin that he will face “massive consequences” including tough economic sanctions in the event of any new Russian aggression.
The Kremlin’s demands contain elements – such as an effective Russian veto on future NATO membership for Ukraine – that the West has already ruled out.
Others would imply the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe and the withdrawal of multinational NATO battalions from Poland and from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that were once in the Soviet Union.
A Biden administration official in a call with reporters on Friday said Washington has taken note of the concerns that Moscow has raised and was ready to engage with Russia as soon as early January but a specific date and location were yet to be set.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Mark Porter)