Thursday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden will be a chance for both sides to put aside their differences and find a way to resolve growing tensions, the Kremlin has said.
Speaking hours before the telephone call is due to take place, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that “negotiations are conducted with one single goal – to reach a compromise, taking into account each side’s red lines.”
According to him, there have been a number of developments since the pair last spoke at the beginning of this month. “These are complex questions, the issues that we have on the agenda,” he cautioned. “After the last conversation, the Russian side has gone away and formulated its position.”
Earlier in December, Moscow published two sets of draft agreements, one addressed to Washington and the other to NATO, in what it said was an effort to cool tensions and reduce the risk of a conflict in Europe. Among the proposals was a demand for written guarantees that the military bloc would not expand closer to Russia’s borders, and that Ukraine’s long-held membership aspirations would not be granted. In addition, Moscow is asking that NATO desist from activity on Kiev’s territory, as well as elsewhere in the region.
The package of measures was quickly dismissed by the bloc’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, who said that NATO “has never promised not to expand,” and argued that no third nation should have a veto over which countries are granted membership. “We cannot question NATO’s right to protect and defend all allies, nor the basic principle that every nation has the right to choose its own path,” the former Norwegian prime minister argued.
However, last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed that the proposals should be discussed with the EU, with Washington committing to consultations with Brussels before responding. Brussels’ top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has urged the White House to “take into account the concerns and interests of all stakeholders” when it comes to any deals that impact European security arrangements.
At his annual end-of-year press conference, Putin claimed that NATO had “cheated” Russia in the past, by ignoring pledges purportedly given to former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that the bloc would not expand into the space left by the collapsing USSR. According to him, the West must now put pledges in writing “immediately” to prevent a worsening escalation in relations.