Russia has ‘little cause for optimism’ after US rejects its Nato demands

Russia said it had “little cause for optimism” on Thursday after the US rejected Moscow’s demands to roll back NATO expansion, but left the door open for further diplomacy as the west seeks to defuse tension over a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Reacting to the written response from Washington to a list of security demands, Moscow said it would take its time to review the US missive before issuing a formal response.

“You can’t say that our ideas were taken on board or [that the US and Nato] showed any kind of preparedness to listen to our concerns, ”Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.

The US has warned that Putin is planning a renewed invasion of Ukraine after massing 106,000 troops at its border and vowed “massive” western sanctions will be imposed in response to any further Russian aggression.

Russia denies it has plans to invade but has threatened “the most unpredictable and grave consequences” for European security if the west rejects its security demands, formally outlined in two draft treaties released last month.

Russian demands include a request that NATO pledges never to admit Ukraine, halt its eastward expansion, and roll back its force deployments in former communist countries in eastern Europe that joined after 1997.

The US has repeatedly said this would be unacceptable while insisting it is ready to co-operate with Russia on issues such as arms control and force deployments.

After the US handed over a written reply to the Russian proposals, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the transatlantic alliance would not go back on its open door policy and leave countries free to associate with NATO.

Moscow claims the US and NATO are fuelling tensions around Ukraine by supplying Kyiv with arms and by training its military eight years into a slow-burning war with Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. The conflict, triggered shortly after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, has killed 14,000 people.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said the US response “allowed us to count on the start of a serious conversation, but on secondary issues. There is no positive reaction in the document on the main issue, ”according to Interfax.

Peskov would not say whether Lavrov would meet Blinken again to discuss the proposals or if Putin was prepared to hold another round of talks with US President Joe Biden.

“There is always potential to continue dialogue. It’s in our interests and the Americans’ interests. Even if our views are sometimes diametrically opposed, you always need dialogue, ”Peskov said.

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