Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Washington’s willingness to discuss Russia’s security proposals aimed at curbing NATO’s eastward expansion was “positive”, as fears mount in the West over a major military escalation in Ukraine.
The Kremlin has grown increasingly insistent that the West and NATO are encroaching dangerously close to Russia’s borders.
Moscow presented the West with sweeping security demands last week, saying NATO must not admit new members and barring the United States from establishing new bases in former Soviet countries.
At his annual conference in Moscow, Putin urged the West to “immediately” meet Russia’s demand for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and the deployment of the military alliance’s weapons there.
“Without any tricks, we just directly posed the question that there should be no further NATO movement to the East, the ball is in their court, they should answer us with something. In this regard, I would like to stress that on the whole, we have seen a positive reaction so far, our American partners tell us that they are ready to start this discussion at the very beginning of the [next] year in Geneva,” Putin said.
At a White House press conference on Thursday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to the comments made by Putin, after the latter accused the West of trying to make Ukraine “anti-Russia, constantly beefed up with modern weapons and brainwashing the population”.
The Russian leader also warned the discussion focused on Moscow’s demand needs to produce quick results.
Psaki responded that Washington is willing to discuss the security proposals, but disagrees with part of them and insists European allies must be part of the talks.
“There have been proposals put forward by the Russians. Some we would agree with, some we certainly wouldn’t agree with. Obviously, NATO is a defensive alliance, and diplomacy is the best path, so we’re working to finalise what they’ll look like,” Psaki said.
Talks to de-escalate tensions over NATO and Ukraine are set to take place between the US and Russia next year in Geneva.
The growing tensions peaked this week when Putin vowed that Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory” military steps in response to what he called the West’s “aggressive stance”.
He also announced a new arsenal of hypersonic missiles that he has previously described as “invincible” were nearing combat readiness.
Tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been slowly building since mid-November when Washington sounded the alarm over a massive Russian troop build-up around Ukraine and accused Putin of planning an invasion.
The West has long accused the Kremlin of providing direct military support to pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, who seized two regions shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014. The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
On Thursday, the European Union reaffirmed its support for Ukraine when EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell called on Moscow to “de-escalate” and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity once again.