The US said it remains ready to engage with Russia but rejected some core proposals as “non-starters” Wednesday at talks in Brussels while urging Moscow to continue discussions, according to the number two American diplomat.
“Together, the United States and our NATO allies made clear, we will not slam the door shut on NATO’s open-door policy, a policy that has always been central to the NATO alliance as a defensive alliance solely,” said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Sherman spoke at a news conference after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council and said NATO is a defensive alliance that exists to protect member states and does not seek confrontation.
Her comments were in response to Russian demands that the alliance should not expand eastwards toward Moscow after talks led by her counterpart, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a veteran diplomat.
The two countries held security talks in Geneva on Monday. A third round of discussions will be conducted Thursday with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), of which Ukraine is a member.
“As we speak, Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, in an unprovoked military build-up,” said Sherman.
She said Moscow is using “increasingly aggressive rhetoric and spreading propaganda and disinformation claiming” that NATO is seeking conflict, not Russia.
“It bears repeating that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine in 2014,” she said. “It is Russia that continues to fuel a war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed nearly 14,000 Ukrainian lives, and now it’s Russia’s actions, which are causing a renewed crisis not only for Ukraine but for all of Europe and for us.”
The US envoy noted that Washington and its NATO allies believe there are areas where the sides can work together and make real progress.
“The United States raised several preliminary ideas, where our two countries could take reciprocal actions that would be in our security interest and improve strategic stability,” she said about talks Monday. “We told the Russian delegation, we are prepared to discuss those ideas in greater detail at any time.”
Sherman said, however, that the US said directly again that if Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what they faced in 2014.
She urged Russia to keep talking.
“If Russia walks away, however, it will be quite apparent, they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy at all. That is why collectively we are preparing forever for every eventuality.”