Leaked NATO response to Russia is genuine, US State Department confirms
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price confirmed the authenticity of documents published by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Feb. 2, that contain NATO’s official written response to Russia’s demands for “security guarantees.”
“I have seen nothing to suggest these documents are not authentic,” Price said during the daily State Department press briefing on Feb. 2.
As published by El Pais, responding to Russia’s protests against NATO expansion, the alliance’s reply described NATO presence in Eastern Europe as “limited, proportional and coherent with (NATO’s) obligations.”
The alliance also reminded Moscow that the United States has not deployed nuclear weapons in the region, and has scaled down their stationed troops to a quarter of their presence at the end of the Cold War.
The United States also warned that further Russian aggression against Ukraine and the growing number of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine would “force the United States and their allies to bolster their defensive deployments in Eastern Europe.”
While refusing to compromise any of its core founding principles, NATO suggested re-establishing bilateral links with Russia that were severed in October 2021, stressing that the alliance is not “seeking confrontation” with Moscow.
In a show of compromise, NATO’s response includes a proposal to lower the threshold for force concentration that would trigger mandatory notifications of NATO maneuvers to Russia, and consultations to avoid military incidents in the air and at sea. This stands in contrast to the U.S. position, which blames Russia for conducting major un-announced military exercises and considers Russian fighter jet exercises in international airspace to be dangerous and unacceptable, in addition to U.S. protests against Russian violations of freedom of movement in international waters in the Black and Azov Seas.
NATO’s response also urges Russia to commit to a “free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace,” by engaging in “responsible behavior” and refraining from making cyber-attacks against other countries.
Russia is suspected to be behind a number of major cyber-attacks in recent years, mostly against Ukraine, including an attack that occurred in mid-January and took down a number of Ukrainian government websites.
The alliance also expressed an interest in discussing “responsible conduct in space” with Moscow: Russian tests of anti-satellite weapons have generated a great deal of orbital debris, causing a long-term issue for the additional exploration and use of Earth’s commonly used satellite orbits.
According to Price, now that these documents are public, there is room for dialogue between the United States and Russia.
“If the source of these documents, whoever that source might be, thought that by leaking them they would embarrass the United States, that they would drive a wedge between the United States and NATO – I think they will find that they were sorely mistaken in their effort to do so,” said Price.
Since the end of October 2021, Russia has been massing troops close to the Ukrainian border.
Russia has since deployed more than 130,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in the temporarily occupied parts of the country, according to the latest intelligence estimate by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.
The situation on Ukraine's eastern border is a matter of deep concern for both U.S. and European officials. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House is looking at a range of options to dissuade Russia from attacking Ukraine.
While Russia has denied plans to invade, it has also refused to provide assurances that it would not do so, instead issuing its demand for so-called “security guarantees” to the United States and NATO.
Prompted by the looming threat of a new Russian offensive against Ukraine, the United States and Ukraine’s other partner countries have begun to supply Kyiv with weapons.
The United States sees indications that Russia is preparing for a major offensive against Ukraine by mid-February, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
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