Blinken said the United States would not publicly release its written response “because we believe diplomacy has the best chance of succeeding if we allow space for confidential talks”, adding that the United States “hopes and expect” the Russians to agree.
It is unclear whether they will comply: Mr Lavrov said after a meeting with Mr Blinken in Geneva last week that he thought the US document should be made public, according to The Russian news agency Tass. And on Wednesday, he said his government would outline U.S. and NATO responses to the Russian people, though the details remain confidential.
According to officials familiar with the documents, the answers begin with broad principles, including that NATO will not rescind its “open door” policy that any state wishing to join the alliance may seek to do so. Mr Biden, however, noted at a press conference last week that Ukraine, which has struggled with democratic governance and corruption, would not be eligible for many years.
The documents also specify that Russia will not have the right to veto the presence of nuclear weapons, troops or conventional weapons in NATO countries. But they open the door to talks on reciprocal restrictions on short- and medium-range nuclear weapons, including a relaunch of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And they say the United States and its allies are ready to discuss mutual rules to limit the size and locations of military exercises; such limits would ensure that they were away from the borders and could not be mistaken for a force gathering for an invasion.
White House officials estimated that senior US officials had held more than 180 meetings with their European counterparts – a statistic meant to signal that they had ensured the response was crafted in partnership with US allies. Ukraine’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country had reviewed and approved responses regarding its future.
Russia had insisted for weeks that the United States provide written responses to its demands, which were published in late December, before deciding on its next course of action. Russia says it has no intention of invading Ukraine, but US officials say the Kremlin has drawn up plans for a ground attack that could come at any time. They warn that Mr Putin could also attack Ukraine – where he has supported a separatist war since 2014 – in a more limited way.
The Kremlin remained silent on Wednesday night, but Russian lawmakers got a largely dismissive initial response. Konstantin I. Kosachev, deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said there were “things to discuss with the United States” even though he had not seen the written response.