From Izvestia, Jan. 28, 2022. Condensed text:

The Russian leadership has made its first comments on the responses that the US and NATO have provided to its security demands. . . .

“It cannot be said that our considerations were taken into account or that willingness to address our concerns was expressed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 27, commenting on the US and NATO responses that were received the day before to Russia’s security guarantee demands. The documents are now with Russian President Vladimir Putin: He will make a decision on Moscow’s further actions. Until then, no one will be “in a hurry to draw any conclusions.”

On the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also offered a preliminary assessment. “There is a reaction that gives us reasons to hope for the start of a serious conversation, but on secondary issues,” he said. As for Russia’s main concern – i.e., NATO’s nonexpansion to the East and nondeployment of offensive weapons near Russia’s borders – there is no “positive reaction” to that, the minister added.

“If the West confines itself to just one of our concerns as outlined in our proposals, then the issue that Russia originally raised remains unresolved,” Dmitry Novikov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, told Izvestia. “It was brought up as part of a package, [and] a series of negotiations have been held on it.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg clarified the contents of Washington’s and NATO’s responses the day before, on Jan. 26, at separate press conferences. They reiterated what they have been saying over the past two weeks: The allies will not abandon the open-door policy but are willing to discuss arms control with Russia.

In response to Russia’s demands, Jens Stoltenberg expressed NATO’s own concerns, saying, for example, that Moscow “should also withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.” NATO considers the Crimea, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria parts of these [three respective] countries. And as long as there is no clarity on the negotiating track, Washington and its allies will continue to provide support to Ukraine, including by delivering weapons to Ukraine, and increasing the combat readiness of their forces in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. “The NATO Response Force consists of around 5,000 troops. It’s currently led by France.*** And it can be deployed within days” if necessary, Stoltenberg said. The aim of these deployments is to “deter Russia.”

Moscow responded to that by pointing out that Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks, which sound as if they were intended to defy the Russian proposals, “are creating an unfavorable backdrop” and are not conducive to negotiations on [security] guarantees. “They reaffirm that strengthening the negotiating position by boosting military capabilities has become common practice in NATO,” Aleksei Zaitsev, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press department, said on Jan. 27.

Dialogue on security guarantees between Russia and the West has been going on since early January 2022. It is based on Russia’s demands to the US and NATO that Moscow made public in December 2021. They boil down to three key provisions:

(1) NATO’s nonexpansion to the East;

(2) rolling back its military deployments [in Central and Eastern Europe] to their positions in 1997, when the Russia-NATO Founding Act [on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security] was signed;

(3) nondeployment of offensive weapons near Russia’s borders.

The US rejected the first two provisions, accepting dialogue on the third one: According to The New York Times, Washington’s written response says that it is willing to discuss limits on intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. The 1987 Russian-US Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate- and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) existed until the US withdrew from it, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow exited the INF Treaty when it became clear that Washington would not return to it, and in 2019 the treaty ceased to exist [see Vol. 71, No. 31, pp. 3‑7].

Russia invited NATO to impose a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in Europe ([Russia] is unilaterally observing it), but the alliance did not respond to this idea. Now that the US has expressed the wish to limit missiles again, Moscow is saying that it would hardly be possible to discuss this subject separately from the “general security architecture”: “Such contacts are hardly viable,” Dmitry Peskov said.

“It seems that Washington has deigned at last to read what exactly Russia is proposing. This is disappointing. It turns out that for the American side to take a constructive approach toward any proposal from its partner, what matters is not so much its substance as its potential for escalating hypothetically connected crises,” Dmitry Stefanovich, research associate with the International Security Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the World Economy and International Relations and cofounder of the Vatfor project, explained to Izvestia.