U.S. to Discuss Scaling Back Military Exercises, Missile Deployments in Europe in Monday’s Russia Talks

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US officials say the concessions should be reciprocal; The proposals fall short of Moscow’s public demands.

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A senior administration official said on Saturday that any concessions “should be reciprocal.” “Both sides will need to make essentially equal commitments, and these discussions will also need to be conducted in full consultation with our partners and allies.”

US and European negotiators will join a series of meetings with Russia next week, starting in Geneva on Sunday night, when Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will work with Deputy Secretary of State Sergei Ryabkov. Formal talks opened the next day. Ms Sherman will then travel to Brussels on Wednesday for an extended meeting between NATO allies and Russia. A third round of talks will be held in Vienna on Thursday under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Ukraine and Russia are members.

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US officials on Saturday outlined three areas in which they expect progress with Russia: weapons deployments in Ukraine, missile deployments in Europe and military exercises on the continent.

Russian officials have repeatedly complained that the US could deploy missiles in Ukraine’s territory that could strike targets in Russia, although President Biden told President Putin last month that the US had no intention of doing so. Not there.

On Saturday, the senior administration official said the White House was ready to formally codify Mr Biden’s position if Moscow would make a mutual commitment.

US officials also projected potential progress on medium-range missiles in Europe. The US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 in 2019 after Moscow accused Moscow of violating the agreement by deploying a banned cruise missile, the 9M729. Russia has denied the allegation.

The Trump administration rejected Russian proposals to halt the deployment of medium-range land-based missiles in Europe, saying such moves could tie America’s hands without eliminating the 9M729 missiles. But the Biden administration is now ready to explore limiting such missiles, the US official said.

“Russia has also expressed interest in discussing the future of certain missile systems in Europe on the lines of the INF Treaty, which Russia violated and withdrawn by the previous US administration,” the US official said. “We are ready to discuss this possibility as well.”

A third area that it hopes will converge with Russia involves reducing military exercises in Europe. Such a move, which would need to be reciprocal, would reduce US military operations in the region.

The US is prepared to “explore mutual sanctions on the size and scope of such exercises, including strategic offensive and ground-based exercises close to each other’s territories,” the senior administration official said.

Russia has cited US and NATO military exercises across Europe as a “red line” for Russia, particularly in Ukraine, which Mr Putin has said is a threat at his country’s doorstep. US officials say Russia has conducted even bigger and more provocative exercises near NATO territory; Moscow says it has the right to move troops within its borders.

The US has already taken some small steps in this regard: it has not conducted a naval operation in the Black Sea since December after conducting at least eight missions last year.

The senior administration official said elements of the number of troops and the force situation in NATO countries would not be discussed in the upcoming meetings.

For Mr Biden, this latest foreign-policy crisis presents an opportunity to restore America’s credibility and commitment to allies, as the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year sparked tensions with capitals across Europe.

While US officials stress the need for coordination with allies, this has presented challenges where sanctions are concerned, according to several US officials. The Biden administration has vowed to impose severe punitive measures on Moscow if it continues its aggression along the Ukraine border, but any sanctions targeting Russia’s financial system or the energy sector will resonate across Europe.

US officials do not know whether their proposals will satisfy Moscow, which has publicized its own proposal that would force NATO to withdraw a 2008 statement that Ukraine and Georgia would one day become members of the coalition. and abandon the expansion towards the east. The Russian proposal would also require NATO to withdraw its deployment to the territory of its new Central and Eastern European members.

“We want to prevent any expansion by NATO on our side,” Ryabkov told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “This is something that is considered here in Moscow, including at the level of the president himself, which is quite urgent.”

Write Michael R. Gordon at [email protected] and Vivian Salama at [email protected]

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