‘We don’t plan to negotiate in public’: White House shoots down Putin ultimatum on Nato expansion

‘We are not going to respond to every proposal or comment that was made, including from the Russian president,’ says a senior White House official

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 23 December 2021 18:02
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<p>A Ukrainian soldier walks at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Popasna, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, 7 December 2021.</p>

A Ukrainian soldier walks at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Popasna, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, 7 December 2021.

The White House said it would not be responding to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s demand for a guarantee that Nato will not expand to include Ukraine before US and Russian officials begin a round of potential negotiations.

During his annual marathon news conference earlier on Tuesday, Mr Putin lashed out at the US, which he said had come “with its’ missiles to our home, to the doorstep of our home”.

“And you demand from me some guarantees? You should give us guarantees – you! And right away – right now,” he said.

He added later: “We put it straight – there must be no further expansion of Nato eastward”.

Last week, the Kremlin released draft security documents it said had been delivered to US officials. Mr Putin’s Tuesday comments largely echoed the demands laid out in those documents, which include a rollback of Nato deployments in central and eastern Europe and a rescinding of a 2008 promise that Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia would be allowed to become signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty. The documents also called for a prohibition on deployment of US and Russian warships to areas from which they could strike each other’s territories.

But a senior White House official who spoke to reporters following Mr Putin’s press conference shot down the idea that a US response would be forthcoming before the commencement of any negotiations. The official also shot down Mr Putin’s claim that US and Russian officials are set to meet in Switzerland next month.

“To be clear … we’re prepared to meet in January [but] we have not yet set a date or location for those talks,” the official said.

“However, Russia has chosen to handle things we don’t plan to negotiate in public, it does not strike us as constructive or way that progress has been made in such diplomatic conversations in the past,” the official said. “We are not going to respond to every proposal or comment that was made, including from the Russian president.”

The official also said that any US-Russia dialogue must be “based on reciprocity” and include putting Washington’s concerns “on the table”. They added that the US would not be participating in discussions absent “full coordination with our partners and allies under the principle of ‘nothing about you without you’”.

“Our view is that negotiations should start from the baseline of foundational principles and documents on European security, which underscore territorial integrity — borders not being changed by force – and respect for the sovereignty and sovereign decision making of countries”.

Continuing, the senior official said it is “clear” to the White House that “substantive progress” in next month’s talks can only be made if Russia fosters “an environment of de-escalation”.

They added that should Mr Putin choose to send Russian forces into Ukraine’s territory, the actions taken by the US and its’ allies “will not just be limited to economic actions”.

“We have said we will increase support for Ukraine’s ability to defend its own territory and also to reassure our NATO partners and allies by changes in our force posture in frontline states,” the official said. “All of that planning is well underway or on our side and we’re ready to act if and when we need to”.

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