(CNSNews.com) – Russia is awaiting Washington’s written response to its calls for security guarantees in Europe – including a demand for no further admissions to NATO – and will then decide on its next move, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
The Biden administration has stated repeatedly that the demand to halt further NATO expansion is a non-starter, that the so-called “open door” policy of admitting to the alliance any aspirant that meets laid-down conditions will not change.
But when it comes to a Russian reaction to that stance, Peskov told reporters, “I don’t want to formulate anything now, and there is no sense in it before we get the [written U.S.] response.”
“Let us first get the answer,” he said. “It will be analyzed and then the position will be formulated based on the framework guidelines from the head of state.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed when meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday that the U.S. would provide Russia with a written response, and Blinken has said that would happen this week.
While the Russian documents were released publicly, it’s not clear what the U.S. response will be – initially at any rate. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that such papers prepared for discussions or negotiations were “typically not made public.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price’s response, when asked at his daily briefing, was also unclear.
“I can assure you that once the response is sent [to Moscow], we will let you know. So stay tuned,” he said.
“So – and you’ll also be giving it to us as well, so we —” a reporter asked.
“We will let you know,” Price repeated, with a smile. “So stay tuned.”
Price said there were areas raised by Russia where give-and-take may be possible, citing, for example, agreements on broader arms control, the placement of missiles, military exercises, and confidence-building measures.
But Moscow’s NATO expansion demands are not among them.
“What the written response will reflect is what we have said, and that is the fact that there are certain areas that for us are non-starters,” he told the briefing. “And there are other areas where dialogue and diplomacy has the potential to enhance collective transatlantic security and also account for some of the concerns that Russia has [put forward].”
‘Not very likely’
At his press conference last week, President Biden alluded to NATO’s “open door” policy, saying that “we have a number of treaties internationally and in Europe that suggest that you get to choose who you want to be with.”
But, he added, Ukraine joining NATO “in the near term is not very likely, based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there, and whether or not the major allies in the West would vote to bring Ukraine in right now.”
That comment by the president referred both to reforms required by countries wanting to join NATO, and to the fact that consensus among current NATO allies is required for new members to be brought onboard – consensus that has been absent in the case of Ukraine and Georgia for almost 15 years.
Price was asked on Tuesday whether Biden’s observation that Ukraine becoming a member of NATO “in the near term is not very likely” would be reflected in the written response to Russia.
“My question is, are you ready to take the quote from President Biden in his press conference, ‘the likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely’ – are you ready to take that quote and put it in written – in your written response?”
“An open door is an open door,” Price replied. “That door will always be open. We’re not going to take any move, we’re not going to say anything that would —”
“The president just did,” the reporter interjected.
“We – I don’t, I don’t think the president did. I think the —”
“No, he, I mean, he said that,” the reporter said.
“The president said exactly what I reiterated just now, that NATO accession is predicated on a set of requirements that each aspirant country must fulfill,” Price said.
Price said that in drafting the U.S. response to the Russian security demands, the administration was consulting closely with allies, as well as with partners which he stressed included Ukraine itself.
“We have been consulting extensively with our allies and our partners, and of course when it comes to the latter category, that includes Ukraine,” he said.
“We have not only informed them and given them a preview of what will be in this report, but we have actually explicitly solicited their feedback and incorporated that feedback into our report,” Price said.
“So there will be no surprises. There will be no surprises for NATO. There will be no surprises for our European allies. There will be no surprises for our Ukrainian partner.”
Both Ukraine and Georgia have been told repeatedly, including at every NATO summit for more than a decade, that they “will become” members of NATO, with no date set for that to happen.
So far, allies have been unable even to agree to giving them “membership action plans” (MAPs), an intermediate step in what can be a lengthy process before actual admission.
(It took Montenegro, Croatia, and Albania between seven and ten years from the time they were given MAPs to joining the alliance. Bosnia received a MAP in 2010 and has yet to be admitted.)