Russia weighs US, NATO responses to security demands

Weeks after Moscow delivered its security demands to the United States and NATO, the Western powers have handed over their highly-anticipated responses, putting the onus on Russia to act next on the Ukraine crisis.

In December, after building up troops at the Ukraine border, Russia called on NATO to pull back its forces and weapons from Eastern Europe and permanently block Ukraine, a former Soviet state, from becoming a member.

But in a written response to those demands, delivered in person on Wednesday by the US ambassador in Moscow, Washington repeated its commitment to upholding NATO’s “open-door” policy.

Shortly after, NATO, which is led by the United States, said it had delivered its replies “in parallel with the United States”.

While Russia’s attempt to constrain the transatlantic security alliance appears to have been rebuffed, Washington says it wants to keep pursuing a diplomatic path to address Moscow’s concerns and discuss issues such as arms control and confidence-building measures with the Kremlin.

Close Putin ally calls for diplomacy

Russia and the US must engage in diplomacy to resolve the standoff, former president Dmitry Medvedev has said, as he warned against stoking tensions to score political points.

“It’s obvious here that the most important and single route is actually to come to agreement on security guarantees, (through) political-diplomatic means, negotiations, the use of the principle of the indivisibility of security…” said Medvedev, now-deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said the idea of a conflict between Moscow and Washington over Ukraine would be a “catastrophic scenario” and voiced alarm that “hot heads” in the US and NATO were even contemplating such a scenario.

“I’m counting on that never happening,” he added.

Rouble recovers from near 15-mth low

The rouble has pared early losses to strengthen, edging away from the near 15-month low hit against the dollar in the previous session, as escalating tensions over Ukraine continued to shake Russian markets.

Russia’s currency plunged to its lowest level since early November 2020 on Wednesday before making a partial comeback as the US said it had set out a diplomatic path to address Russia’s sweeping security demands.

By 07:36 GMT, the rouble was 0.5 percent stronger against the dollar at 79.06. It had dived to 80.4125 in the previous session. Against the euro, the rouble had gained 0.8 percent to trade at 88.65.

China urges ‘calm’ from all parties

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told the US’s Antony Blinken that Beijing wants to see all parties involved remain calm.

“We call on all parties to stay calm and refrain from doing things that agitate tensions and hype up the crisis,” Wang told the US secretary of state late on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Wang, in an apparent reference to Russia’s objections to NATO’s expansion, told Blinken that regional security could not be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs.

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