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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Wednesday that negotiations between Moscow and the US and NATO are expected to begin in January, days following Russia’s submission of a draft ‘security guarantees’ document to each, which is aimed at jumpstarting negotiations toward a permanent de-escalation of tensions. 

The Kremlin is seeking legally binding guarantees that NATO would halt all eastward expansion. “It is agreed that at the very start of next year bilateral contact between American negotiators and ours will become the first round [of talks],” Lavrov said, according to Reuters.

NATO tank drills, via FT

The Biden administration seems have given credence to Lavrov’s statement, with on Tuesday the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried describing that officials from both governments were in communication to “decide on a date”… “likely” for January.

“There are some things that we’re prepared to work on and that we do believe that there’s merit in having a discussion,” said Donfried, while also being among the earliest Washington officials to weigh in on Russia’s written proposals: “There are other things in those documents that the Russians know will be unacceptable.”

The US and Russian militaries also continued their deconfliction talks Wednesday by phone, following a series of calls sparked by the fresh diplomatic standoff over Ukraine, which involves the West accusing Russia of readying a military offensive…

“The phone call is a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction. In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the specific details of their conversation private,” the U.S. military said of that exchange.

NATO HQ in Brussels has also reportedly signaled that negotiations are set to begin next year.

General war-footing rhetoric has only grown in the past days as both sides look for a way the climb down the escalation ladder…

Early this week Kremlin officials urged NATO and US officials that time is of the essence in terms of a quick response to Russia’s request for immediate dialogue over the security concerns – this also coming off the recent Biden-Putin virtual summit wherein the US president appeared to be open to such a dialogue.

But Moscow has since warned that should the West shut the door on Moscow’s overtures in the form of this security document, Russia must resort to escalation to protect its sovereignty and interests. This includes Russia holding out the threat of deployment of new weapons systems near Ukraine. But Washington has countered with its own threat of mulling imposing strict export controls on Russia targeting key items like auto parts and smartphones.


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