US ready to discuss Russia 'security guarantees'

  • Market: Crude oil, Natural gas
  • 12/23/21

The White House is preparing to enter into talks with Moscow over "security guarantees" in eastern Europe — the Kremlin's demand for non-interference on its western borders — while preparing a package of sanctions in case Russia invades Ukraine again.

"We have taken note of the concerns that Russia has raised both privately and publicly," a senior administration official said today. "We will have our substantive response" in talks scheduled to take place in early January, the official said.

Following a 7 December virtual summit between US president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin, Russia has publicly released a detailed proposal for legally binding guarantees by the US on security guarantees in eastern Europe, including a commitment not to admit Ukraine into Nato and not to place advanced offensive capabilities in Nato member states neighboring Russia. Putin at a press conference today said that the US has "responded positively" to his proposal and that it would be hashed out in talks scheduled to take next month in Geneva.

"We have not responded substantively to the proposals that have been made," the US official said in response to Putin's remarks. "Clearly there are some things that have been proposed that we will never agree to, and I think the Russians probably know that on some level," the official said. "But there are other areas where we may be able to explore what's possible."

The White House has already said it would not rule out Ukraine's possible admission into Nato and that the US will continue supplying weapons and training to Ukraine and Nato's eastern European members. Any talks would have to be based on reciprocity, with the US and its allies in Europe advancing their own demands for security guarantees from Russia, the US official said.

US officials are wary of creating an impression of agreeing to discuss a sphere of influence for Russia on its western borders, promising detailed consultation with allies to ensure their interests are protected. But the mere agreement by the White House to enter such talks is likely to be celebrated by Moscow, which has seen similar pitches rejected outright under former US presidents George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The Biden administration is willing to pursue diplomacy with Moscow to reduce US-Russia tensions as part of a broader strategy of reorienting Washington's diplomatic and military resources to tackle China's growing assertiveness in Asia-Pacific.

The planned talks follow the recent increase in tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border, with the Pentagon accusing Russia of placing over 100,000 troops in a combat-ready mode along the border between those two countries. The US is considering sanctions that would cut off Russia from the global financial system and hit its energy sector, as well as Russian state-controlled Gazprom's delayed 55bn m³/yr Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, in coordination with US allies in Europe, inthe event that Putin orders another invasion of Ukraine.

Nothing short of a complete embargo on Russian energy imports into Europe is likely to sway the Kremlin. But the US official acknowledged that hitting the Russian energy exports too hard would have severe consequences globally.

"The energy market is something that has consequences for our people, for European people, for people around the world," the US official said. "It will be factored into our analysis and in our response as it is in a number of areas of our foreign policy, but I don't have anything to say about it beyond that."


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