The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.
Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.
The backstory: In December, as Russia was building up its now 100,000-strong troop presence on Ukraine's borders and the U.S. was calling for de-escalation, Moscow submitted written demands including that NATO rule out eastward expansion, roll back its presence in Eastern Europe and keep offensive weapons systems out of Ukraine.
- In back-to-back press conference on Wednesday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said they had responded to Russia's demands in separate but "mutually reinforcing" documents. Blinken said there were no concessions on key issues like NATO's "open door policy."
- In addition, the U.S. and NATO made proposals of their own. Blinken emphasized the issue of arms control in his press conference and referenced a proposal for negotiations on a successor to the New START nuclear treaty.
- Stoltenberg added that NATO had proposed steps to increase communication and reduce risks, including a potential new civilian hotline and increased transparency around military exercises.
Between the lines: Analysts have been warning that handing Putin a formal rejection of his security demands could help make his case for war with Ukraine. ...
- "We decided to reply in written form because we take very seriously the idea of making progress, we've listened to the Russian concerns," Stoltenberg said.