Russia is expected to begin bilateral talks with U.S. negotiators over Moscow’s security guarantees at the start of next year, Russia’s top diplomat announced on Wednesday.
“It is agreed that at the very start of next year, bilateral contact between American negotiators and ours will become the first round [of talks],” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov followed up on Lavrov’s comments and hailed reaching a quick agreement on the start of the talks, saying Russia is very interested in the negotiations, while also noting that he hopes Washington and other European capitals will arrive for the talks with “clearly formulated positions.”
“Now, it is very important that our counterparts also clearly formulate all basic positions so that the negotiations do not turn into a process for the sake of the process and so that they are focused on specific results after all,” Peskov said, Russian press agency TASS reported.
Last week, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. Washington and its allies have refused to provide such pledges, but said they are open for bilateral talks.
Moscow presented the demands amid soaring tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that has stoked concern of a possible invasion—an accusation Russia has repeatedly denied.
Russia announcing the agreement on talks to start comes a day after President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is ready to take adequate military-technical measures if Western countries continue to pursue an aggressive policy and decline Russia’s pledge to stop the eastward expansion of NATO and the alliance placing military infrastructure near Russia.
“We are not demanding any special exclusive conditions. … And in case western colleagues continue their clearly aggressive line, we will take adequate military and technical measures in response,” Putin said on Tuesday while meeting with Russia’s top military brass.
“We will react firmly to unfriendly steps, and I’d like to underline that we have the complete right to do this,” he went on to say. Putin’s statement comes several weeks after he sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represented a “red line” for Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that Washington is working with European allies to address what he called “Russian aggression” with diplomacy. Blinken also said that President Joe Biden opposes the kind of security guarantees sought by Putin.
“The president has been extremely clear for many, many years about some basic principles that no one is moving back on: the principle that one country does not have the right to change by force the borders of another, that one country does not have the right to dictate the policies of another or to tell that that country with whom they may associate,” Blinken told reporters in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.