MOSCOW – The Kremlin said Thursday that Russia submitted draft documents outlining security arrangements it wants to negotiate with the United States and its NATO allies amid s piraling tensions over Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a senior Russian envoy stood ready to immediately depart for talks in a neutral country on the proposal.
Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have another call with U.S. President Joe Biden before the year's end to discuss the security issue, but he said it hasn't been agreed to yet.
In a video call with Putin last week, Biden voiced concern about a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and warned him that Russia would face “severe consequences” if Moscow attacked its neighbor.
Putin has denied plans of launching an invasion and reversed the conversation by prodding Western leaders to provide legally binding guarantees precluding NATO's expansion to Ukraine and the deployment of the alliance's weapons there, calling such actions a “red line” for Moscow.
The U.S. and its allies have refused to provide such pledges, but Biden and Putin agreed last week on further talks to discuss Russia's concerns.
In a statement late Thursday, NATO ambassadors said they are “gravely concerned by the substantial, unprovoked, and unjustified Russian military build-up on the borders of Ukraine in recent months, and reject the false Russian claims of Ukrainian and NATO provocations.”
But they signaled that the 30-nation alliance might be ready to discuss Russia’s security proposals.
“We are clear that any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on the core principles and foundational documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners,” they said.
“Should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures,” the statement said, adding that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could be the forum for this.
Peskov said Russia has submitted drafts of a treaty and an agreement to the United States, but he refused to specify what specific arrangements they contained and who could be the signatories.
He said Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, discussed the Russian drafts with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a call Wednesday, and that Moscow was ready to start negotiations.
Moscow’s proposals were passed on to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried, who visited Moscow on Wednesday and met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
Ryabkov would be ready to depart for talks on prospective agreements in a neutral country, Peskov said without giving details.
Speaking last week, Ryabkov warned that the failure to stem mounting Russia-West tensions could push them to a showdown similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that put the world on the verge of a nuclear war.
U.S. intelligence officials say Russia has moved 70,000 troops to its border with Ukraine and is preparing for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied an intention to attack and accused Ukrainian authorities of planning an offensive to reclaim control of rebel-held eastern Ukraine — an allegation Ukraine has rejected.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. It has killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine's industrial heartland called Donbas.
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.