American and Russian diplomats have set a date for discussion of Moscow’s demand for “security guarantees” against NATO expansion amid rising tensions over troop buildup near the Ukrainian border, according to a new report.
According to Reuters, the bilateral talks will take place Jan. 10. Separate talks between Russia and NATO are scheduled for Jan. 12, with another round of discussion involving officials from Washington, Moscow and European nations slated for Jan. 13.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed the dates to Reuters, while a National Security Council spokesman told the wire agency the White House is ready to engage in diplomacy.
“We are unified as an Alliance on the consequences Russia would face if it moves on Ukraine,” the spokesman said in a statement. “But we are also unified in our willingness to engage in principled diplomacy with Russia.”
“Russia can put its concerns on the table, and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia’s activities as well,” the statement added. “There will be areas where we can make progress, and areas where we will disagree. That’s what diplomacy is about.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the US and its allies pledge not to allow Ukraine and other former Soviet republics to join NATO and stop the alliance from spreading further into Eastern Europe.
Putin also wants assurances that the West will not deploy troops or missile systems in Ukraine in response to Russia assembling a force of roughly 175,000 on Ukraine’s eastern border.
Ryabkov said the US-Russia talks would be held in Geneva and the Jan. 12 NATO meeting would be held in Brussels. The Jan. 13 discussions would also involve the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a group that includes the US, NATO countries, Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.
Russia has denied the buildup of troops is in preparation for an invasion, but the US and its allies believe an attack could happen after the first of next year.
In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, prompting economic sanctions from the US and its European allies.
President Biden on Monday signed a $768 billion defense spending bill that includes $300 million to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to assist Kiev in acquiring the resources needed to counter Russia’s troop buildup.