USA und NATO antworten auf Russlands Vorschläge – Spoiler: Details (noch) unbekannt

Die USA und die NATO haben auf die Vertragsentwürfe Russlands geantwortet, in denen die Regierung in Moskau weitreichende Sicherheitsgarantien vom Westen und neben dem Verzicht auf eine Aufnahme der Ukraine faktisch eine Rücknahme der NATO-Osterweiterung seit 1997 verlangt hat. Die Einzelheiten der schriftlichen Antworten bleiben allerdings noch unklar.

Die russische Regierung hatte am 17. Dezember vergangenen Jahres fertig formulierte Vertragsentwürfe an die USA und die NATO geschickt. Die Entwürfe sehen unter anderem vor, dass Truppenstationierungen außerhalb des eigenen Territoriums verboten werden sollten, wenn sich eine der Vertragsparteien bedroht fühlen könnte, außerdem sollen nach 1997 aufgenommene Mitgliedsstaaten der Allianz nicht militärisch unterstützt werden: Praktisch eine Forderung an das Ende der NATO.

So ist darin die Forderung an die Allianz enthalten, die Absage an die Stationierung jeglicher Truppen der Staaten, die vor Mai 1997 Mitglieder der NATO waren, in den später hinzugekommenen Bündnisstaaten vorzusehen: Tschechien, Ungarn und Polen (1999), Bulgarien, Estland, Lettland, Litauen, Rumänien, Slowakei, Slowenien (2004), Albanien, Kroatien (2009) sowie Montenegro (2017) und Nordmazedonien (2020).

Sowohl die Regierung in Washington als auch die NATO hatten deutlich gemacht, zu diesen weit reichenden Zugeständnissen nicht bereit zu sein, wohl aber zu Absprachen mit Russland über Truppenstärken und Stationierungen von Waffensystemen in Europa. Nach den Worten von US-Außenminister Tony Blinken und NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg übersandten sie am (heutigen) Mittwoch ihre ausformulierten Antworten an Moskau.

Zu den Einzelheiten dieser Antwort sagten sowohl Blinken als auch Stoltenberg zunächst nichts. Sie äußerten sich allerdings sehr grundsätzlich zur Haltung Moskaus – natürlich auch unter dem Eindruck der massiven russischen Truppenpräsenz nahe der Ukraine.

Die Details werden, vermutlich, mit der Zeit durchsickern. Hier zunächst nur zur Dokumentation die Pressekonferenzen in Washington und Brüssel vom heutigen Tag.

Das Video der Pressekonferenz Blinkens:

Und das Transkript dazu (bei den Fragen fehlte auch, kaum verwunderlich, nicht die nach der Haltung Deutschlands in der aktuellen Situation):

Last week in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and I met to discuss the crisis instigated by Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and steps to de-escalate tensions and pursue diplomacy. Russia had previously outlined its concerns and proposals in writing, and last week I told Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States would do the same.

Today, Ambassador Sullivan delivered our written response in Moscow. All told, it sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it.

The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground.

We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend – including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances.

We’ve addressed the possibility of reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe.

And we address other areas where we see potential for progress, including arms control related to missiles in Europe, our interest in a follow-on agreement to the New START treaty that covers all nuclear weapons, and ways to increase transparency and stability.

We’ve put these ideas forward because they have the potential – if negotiated in good faith – to enhance our security and that of our allies and partners while also addressing Russia’s stated concerns through reciprocal commitments.

Our response to Russia reflects what I said in Kyiv, Berlin, and Geneva last week. We’re open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy, and we’re prepared to move forward where there is the possibility of communication and cooperation if Russia de-escalates its aggression toward Ukraine, stops the inflammatory rhetoric, and approaches discussions about the future of security in Europe in a spirit of reciprocity.

Our responses were fully coordinated with Ukraine and our European allies and partners, with whom we’ve been consulting continuously for weeks. We sought their input and incorporated it into the final version delivered to Moscow.

Additionally, NATO developed and will deliver to Moscow its own paper with ideas and concerns about collective security in Europe – and that paper fully reinforces ours, and vice versa. There is no daylight among the United States and our allies and partners on these matters.

We’ve shared our response paper with Congress, and I’ll be briefing Congressional leaders on this later today and consulting with them on our approach. As you know, there’s strong bipartisan interest and deep expertise on the Hill when it comes to Ukraine and Russia, and we very much appreciate having Congress as a partner as we move forward.

We’re not releasing the document publicly because we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks. We hope and expect that Russia will have the same view and will take our proposals seriously.

I expect to speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days after Moscow has had a chance to read the paper and is ready to discuss next steps.

There should be no doubt about our seriousness of purpose when it comes to diplomacy, and we’re acting with equal focus and force to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and prepare a swift, united response to further Russian aggression.

Three deliveries of U.S. defensive military assistance arrived in Kyiv this week, carrying additional Javelin missiles and other anti-armor systems, 283 tons of ammunition and non-lethal equipment essential to Ukraine’s front-line defenders. More deliveries are expected in the days to come. We have provided more defensive security assistance to Ukraine in the past year than in any previous year.

Last week, I authorized U.S. allies – including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – to provide U.S.-origin military equipment from their inventories for use by Ukraine.

Also last week, we notified Congress of our intent to deliver to Ukraine the Mi-17 helicopters currently held in Defense Department inventories, five of them.

Additionally, the Secretary of Defense announced on Monday that 8,500 U.S. service members currently stationed in Europe and the United States have been placed in heightened readiness – heightened readiness to deploy – to ensure that we’re able to support the NATO Response Force swiftly if it’s activated by the North Atlantic Council to harden the Allies’ eastern flank. Other NATO Allies have also announced steps they’re prepared to take, and we expect more in the coming days. We’ve taken this step out of prudence. We hope those forces don’t have to be activated for deployment, but if they are, we will be ready.

We’re also continuing to coordinate with our European allies and partners on severe economic sanctions to hold Moscow accountable for its actions. We’ve developed a high-impact, quick-action response that would inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system.

As part of our response, we’re also prepared to impose export controls that will have a longer-term effect, denying Russia products that it needs to fulfill its strategic ambitions.

On top of all of that, our allies and partners are also stepping up to provide assistance to Ukraine in various and mutually reinforcing ways. As we have done many times before, the Alliance and individuals Allies are coming together to support our partners and to defend what should be inviolable principles that have helped provide unprecedented security, stability, and prosperity for decades in Europe and around the world.

Finally, we’re looking to support our allies and partners in dealing with the secondary negative consequences of Russia’s destabilizing acts.

For example, we know that Ukraine’s economy and financial position is being affected by this crisis. And just as we’re bolstering Ukraine’s security, so too are we looking for how we can support its economy beyond the significant assistance we’re already providing. Our European allies and partners are doing so as well, and that’s another matter that I’ll have an opportunity to discuss with Congress later this afternoon.

As we’re taking steps to ensure that the global energy supply isn’t disrupted – that too is an important focus – should Russia choose to weaponize its natural gas by cutting supply to Europe even more than it’s already done, we’re in discussions with governments and major producers around the world about surging their capacity. We’re engaged in detailed conversations with our allies and partners about coordinating our response, including how best to deploy their existing energy stockpiles. All this effort is aimed at mitigating price shocks and ensuring that people in the United States, Europe, and around the world have the energy they need no matter what Russia decides to do.

All told, our actions over the past week have sharpened the choice facing Russia now. We’ve laid out a diplomatic path. We’ve lined up steep consequences should Russia choose further aggression. We’ve stepped forward with more support for Ukraine’s security and economy. And we and our allies and partners are united across the board.

Now we’ll continue to press forward and prepare. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We’re ready either way.

One final note before I take some questions.

Regarding American citizens in Ukraine: As you know, earlier this week, I authorized the voluntary departure of a limited number of U.S. employees and ordered the departure of many family members of embassy personnel from Ukraine.

This was a decision based on one factor only: the safety and security of our colleagues and their families. And given the continued massive build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders, which has many indications of preparations for an invasion, these steps were the prudent ones to take.

I want to be clear that our embassy in Kyiv will remain open, and we continue to maintain a robust presence to provide diplomatic, economic, and security support to Ukraine.

The State Department has also issued an updated Travel Advisory due to the potential for security conditions to deteriorate rapidly and without warning if Russia invades or commits other destabilizing actions inside Ukraine.

Our message now for any Americans in Ukraine is to strongly consider leaving using commercial or other privately available transportation options. These options remain readily available. And the embassy may extend loans to those who can’t afford the cost of a commercial ticket.

While the State Department will always seek to provide consular services wherever possible, Russian military action would severely impact our ability to perform that work. And if Russia invades, civilians – including Americans still in Ukraine – could be caught in a conflict zone between combatant forces. The U.S. Government may not be in a position to aid individuals in these circumstances. This has long been the case in conflict zones around the world.

So while we don’t know whether Russia will continue its aggression toward Ukraine, either way, we have a responsibility to provide this notice to Americans there.

And with that, happy to take some questions.


QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I realize that you don’t want to get into the specifics of what is actually in this document and – although I’m sure I and my colleagues will continue to try to get them. But can you say more broadly – when you say that there are core principles that you’re committed to and to uphold and defend, does that mean that in this document you told the Russians point blank in writing that “no” is the answer to their demand for a formal bar on the expansion of NATO, the permanent exclusion of Ukraine, and the withdrawal of certain forces and equipment from Eastern Europe? Is that what this says? Can – is there anything different in this document than what we have heard publicly over the course of the last couple weeks?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, without going into the specifics of the document, I can tell you that it reiterates what we’ve said publicly for many weeks and, in a sense, for many years: that we will uphold the principle of NATO’s open door, and that’s, as I’ve said repeatedly in recent weeks, a commitment that we’re bound to. And so the document, as I said, makes very clear some of the basic principles that we are standing by, committed to, and will uphold, much of which has been stated in public, including by me in recent days and weeks. And that goes to NATO’s “Open Door” policy.

QUESTION: So you would say that it is accurate to say that there are no concessions in this —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: This isn’t about concessions —

QUESTION: Well, there is no change in the U.S. and NATO position in this document that —

SECRETARY BLINKEN: First of all, there is no change; there will be no change. Second, we reiterate the – that principle. Of course, it is for NATO, not the United States unilaterally, to discuss the “Open Door” policy. These are decisions that NATO makes as an Alliance, not the United States unilaterally. But from our perspective, I can’t be more clear: NATO’s door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment.

MR PRICE: Margaret.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Do you have any reason to believe then that the document that was submitted will in any way lessen the chance of Russian action, or was this just to show you tried?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Margaret, what we do in this document, besides laying out our core principles, besides sharing our concerns, the concerns of allies and partners about things that Russia is doing that we believe undermine security and stability, we also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia, based on some of its stated concerns, as well, of course, as for us and for our allies and partners. And so there are a number of areas – again, based on what Russia has said – that I think would make a difference if done on a reciprocal basis and approached in good faith.

So, for example, as we’ve said, the placement of offensive missile systems in Ukraine, military exercises and maneuvers in Europe, potential arms control measures, greater transparency, various measures to reduce risks – all of these things would address, I think, mutual concerns, including concerns stated by Russia, and advance collective security.

So I think there is – there are important things to work with if Russia is serious about working with them. And that is up to President Putin. We’ll see how they respond. But there’s no doubt in my mind that if Russia were to approach this seriously and in a spirit of reciprocity, with the determination to enhance collective security for all of us, there are very positive things in this document that should be pursued. We can’t make that decision for President Putin. Only he can make it.

QUESTION: But (inaudible) you’ve been negotiating?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve said throughout – and we of course started this process with the conversations that took place in our Strategic Stability Dialogue with Russia, between Russia and the United States, about 10 days ago at the NATO-Russia Council, at the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe – that again, we understand Russia has stated concerns about security. We have our own very clear concerns about security and the actions that Russia’s taking that undermine it, and we are prepared to discuss and, if appropriate, eventually negotiate steps to enhance everyone’s security. And I’ve laid out some of the areas where we think we could do that.

But right now, this is about the areas and ideas that we could pursue, and we’ll see how Russia responds.


QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary, have you considered that Russia is just buying time till they’re in a place to invade Ukraine, making you jump through hoops like hand-delivering written responses to questions that you’ve answered time and time again in the past? And meanwhile, they’re destabilizing Ukraine from within. The economy’s crumbling. You’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars shoring them up. At what point do you stop playing Russia’s game and take preemptive action now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, Ben, first, we’re, as you know, not standing still, and we can walk and chew gum at the same time. And that’s very much what we’ve been doing. So we’ve been clear to Russia that there are two paths: a diplomatic one but also a path of defense and deterrence, and if Russia chooses aggression, a path that will lead to massive consequences.

And so even as we’ve been engaging in the diplomacy, which is my job and responsibility, we have been very resolutely preparing for Russia to take the other path, the path of aggression. And as I laid out, the work that we’ve done over the past couple of months in bringing allies and partners together around massive consequences for Russia – should it renew its aggression – and the very detailed work that’s been done on that, the shoring up of —

QUESTION: But they are being aggressive now – sorry.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Let me finish what (inaudible) and then come back to you – the shoring up in very significant ways of our support for Ukraine, including the defensive military support, the draw-down that the president issued in December, which has now – is now being delivered to Ukraine, the additional steps to make sure that defensive military assistance was being made available to Ukraine, including the authorizations that I signed a week ago to allow other countries that have U.S.-origin military equipment to share it with Ukraine, the work we’re doing to bolster Ukraine’s economy, the work we’re doing to shore up Europe on energy if there are disruptions as a result of conflict, and of course the orders that the President gave, the Secretary of Defense gave earlier this week to make sure that we are fully prepared on a moment’s notice to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank in the event of renewed Russian aggression – all of those things have been happening very deliberately and effectively over the last many weeks.

So these two paths – and the approach that we’ve taken, these are mutually reinforcing. The work that we’re doing on defense, on deterrence, bringing allies and partners together, I think reinforces our diplomacy. And at the same time, it’s very important that we pursue the diplomacy whether or not – you may well be right – that Russia’s not serious about this at all.

But we have an obligation to test that proposition, to pursue the diplomatic path, to leave no diplomatic stone unturned, because for sure it’s far preferable to resolve these differences peacefully consistent with our principles than it would be to have renewed aggression, renewed conflict, and everything that will follow from that. But the point is we’re prepared either way.

MR PRICE: Humeyra.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. I just want to ask you a little bit about the unified approach with Europe. What do you make of Germany’s stance? For example, they ruled out sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, they prevented Estonia from delivering arms, and today there was news out that they are sending helmets to Ukraine, a delivery Kyiv mayor said was a joke. Would you say that you’re happy or satisfied with Germany sending helmets to Ukraine instead of arms shipments?

And if I may just ask about President’s comments yesterday. He said that he would consider sanctioning Putin personally if he decides to invade. How advanced are these plans? And then again, going back to unity with Europe, has the United States discussed this with Europe and are they on board? Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, let me say as a general matter, and I – at the risk of patting ourselves on the shoulder, I have to say I was struck when I spoke to the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union a couple of days ago that partner after partner – this was in the EU context, but I’ve heard the same thing at NATO – referenced the – and the word that was used was “unprecedented” coordination and consultation with allies and partners on this issue and on this challenge. And one result of that unprecedented coordination and consultation is, as I see it, very strong solidarity in terms of the consequences that will befall Russia if it renews aggression against Ukraine. And that is across the board, and that includes Germany.

And I was just in Germany just – as you know very well, meeting with Chancellor Scholz and spending a lot of time with my German counterpart, Foreign Minister Baerbock. And as I said before, I’m absolutely confident in German solidarity in being with – together with us and other allies and partners in confronting renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Now, look, different countries have different authorities. They have different capabilities. They have different areas of expertise. And we’re bringing all of those to bear, but doing it in a way that is complementary, and it speaks to the shared commitment that we have to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty, and its independence.

When it comes to sanctions, I think, as you heard the President say, everything is on the table. I can tell you this: The steps that we will take together swiftly will go directly to things that President Putin cares deeply about, including Russia’s ability to engage economically and financially, including its ability to develop technology for the sectors that it cares most about, like defense, like high-tech, and, as the President said, everything is on the table, and I’ll leave it at that.

MR PRICE: Take a final question from Kylie.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I’m just wondering if this document should be considered a proposal from President Biden to President Putin. And if you can also shine a little bit of light on President Biden’s role in crafting this message.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sure. Kylie, again, the document that we’ve shared with Russia today is – does a few things.

First and foremost, it states very clearly the principles that we’re committed to and that we will defend one way or the other.

Second, it lays out our own concerns and allied concerns about actions that Russia has taken, is taking, not just with regard to Ukraine but more broadly in the European theater, that we believe undermine security.

Third, it addresses concerns that Russia raised in the document that it provided to us a couple of weeks ago.

And finally, it suggests areas where, based on reciprocity, we believe we could advance our collective security, again in ways that address our concerns and in ways that address some of Russia’s concerns. That’s what this does. This – it’s not a formal negotiating document. It’s not explicit proposals. It lays out the areas and some ideas of how we can – together, if they’re serious – advance collective security.

President Biden was intimately involved in this document. We’ve reviewed it with him repeatedly over the last weeks, just as we were getting, as you know, comments, input, ideas from allies and partners. It was vital that we work on this document even though it goes to bilateral matters, and what NATO is providing presumably goes to the – some broader issues that involve NATO and Russia. But allies and partners were intimately involved as well. And we took on board many of the comments they’ve made and integrated them into the document. But the President has been deeply involved in this from the get-go reviewing various drafts of the proposal, making his own edits, and of course blessing the final document that was delivered to Russia today.

MR PRICE: Thank you.

QUESTION: And just to follow-up on that, given that Biden himself, U.S. Biden administration officials have said a invasion is potentially imminent, the stakes are incredibly high here, and you guys have also said that Putin is the decision maker.


QUESTION: So why not address this directly to him given the situation you’re facing right now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m not sure what you mean by address it directly to him. This is a document that was prepared on behalf of the United States by its government being delivered to Russia and to its government, upon which President Putin presides. I have no doubt that our Russian counterparts and my counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov, will share the document with President Putin. And —

QUESTION: And everyone else.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: — putting things in – perhaps everyone else. (Laughter.) You may be right. And of course, it’s – these are also complex issues, and putting things in writing is also a good way – as we do all the time across the board – is a good way to make sure we’re as precise as possible and the Russians understand our positions, our ideas as clearly as possible. Right now the document is with them and the ball is in their court. We’ll see what we do. As I’ve said repeatedly, whether they choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, whether they decide to renew aggression against Ukraine, we’re prepared either way. Thank you.

Von der NATO gibt es ein Audio der Pressekonferenz Stoltenbergs:

ENGLISH - Press conference by the NATO Secretary General     


Als Transkript gibt es bislang nur das Statement Stoltenbergs (der Teil mit den Fragen und Antworten wird ggf. nachgetragen):

We face a critical moment for Euro-Atlantic security.
Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine continues, with more than 100,000 troops in position, and more on the way, including significant deployments in Belarus.
We call on Russia once again to immediately de-escalate the situation.
NATO firmly believes that tensions and disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.
Not through force or the threat of force.
So today, NATO has conveyed our written proposals to Russia.
We have done so in parallel with the United States.
Let me outline the three main areas where we see room for progress.
First, NATO-Russia relations.
Russia has cut diplomatic ties with NATO, which makes our dialogue more difficult.
So we should re-establish our respective offices in Moscow and in Brussels.
We should also make full use of our existing military-to-military channels of communications, to promote transparency and reduce risks, and look also into setting up a civilian hotline for emergency use.
Second, European security, including the situation in and around Ukraine.
We are prepared to listen to Russia’s concerns, and engage in a real conversation on how to uphold and strengthen the fundamental principles of European security that we have all signed up to, starting with the Helsinki Final Act.
This includes the right of each nation to choose its own security arrangements.
Russia should refrain from coercive force posturing, aggressive rhetoric, and malign activities directed against Allies and other nations.
Russia should also withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, where they are deployed without these countries’ consent, and all parties should engage constructively in efforts to settle conflicts, including in the Normandy format.
Third, risk reduction, transparency, and arms control.
History has shown that engagement on these issues can provide real security for everyone.
So we need practical measures that will make a real difference.
As a first step, we are proposing mutual briefings on exercises and nuclear policies in the NATO-Russia Council.
We should also modernise the Vienna Document on military transparency, and work to reduce space and cyber threats.
We should consult on ways to prevent incidents in the air and at sea, and recommit to full compliance with international commitments on chemical and biological weapons.
Finally, we need to have a serious conversation on arms control.
Including nuclear weapons and ground-based intermediate and shorter range missiles.
These areas represent an agenda for meaningful dialogue, and I have invited Allies and Russia to a series of meetings to address all of these issues in greater detail in the NATO-Russia Council.
Allies are ready to meet as soon as possible.
In all of our efforts, we continue to coordinate closely with Ukraine, as well as with other NATO partners, including Finland, Sweden, Georgia, and of course, the European Union.
NATO is a defensive Alliance, and we do not seek confrontation.
But we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which the security of our Alliance and security in Europe and North America rest.
We remain fully committed to our founding treaty, and our collective defence pledge enshrined in Article 5.
We will take all necessary measures to defend and protect all Allies.
And with that I am ready to take your questions.

Eine Aussage des NATO-Generalsekretärs aus dem Frageteil allerdings schon mal vorab: Vor allem in den USA interessiert die Frage nach einer möglichen Aktivierung der NATO Response Force, nachdem das Pentagon angekündigt hatte, dafür 8.500 Soldaten in den USA in erhöhte Bereitschaft zu setzen. Stoltenberg verwies lediglich darauf, dass bereits im Dezember die Bereitschaft der NATO-Speerspitze, der Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), derzeit unter französischer Führung, erhöht worden sei.

In der Tat hatte der militärische NATO-Oberbefehlshaber in Europa, der US-General Tod Wolters, die so genannte Notice to Move (NTM), die Zeit für eine Verlegung, von sieben auf fünf Tage reduziert. Ob sie aktiviert wird, ist eine Entscheidung der NATO insgesamt, die im Nordatlantikrat getroffen wird. Über eine höhere Bereitschaft der gesamten NATO Response Force (NRF) wird dagegen noch nachgedacht, entschieden ist das nicht. Das würde dann auch die Bundeswehr betreffen, die zwar erst im kommenden Jahr den Großteil der Landstreitkräfte für die VJTF stellt, aber bereits jetzt mehr als 10.000 Soldaten als so genannte follow-on forces für die NRF bereithält.

Nachtrag: Das Transkript des Frage-Antwort-Teils mit Stoltenberg:

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: And we’ll start with POLITICO, David Herszenhorn.

David Herszenhorn (POLITICO): Thanks very much, Mr. Secretary General. I wonder if you tell us if there are any plans for renewed talks, for further diplomatic talks [inaudible] in written responses. Do you think will provide basis for more conversation, the kind of conversation described going forward?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: We have invited, I have, as Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council, invited all 30 Allies and Russia to a series of meetings where we are ready to sit down and to have substantive discussions on a wide range of issues.

I mentioned main issues in the NATO written proposals we have sent to Russia today. We also had to sit down and listen to the Russian concerns.

And we also strongly believe that these issues represent topics where we both can benefit: arms control, reducing the threats from nuclear weapons, from short range and medium range missiles, addressing the threats and reducing the threat from cyber space, but also from space based weapons systems, more transparency on military activities. All of these issues represented, in different ways, areas where actually we can improve the security, both for NATO Allies and for Russia.

So at the end of the day, this is about whether it’s a will to engage in good faith and to try to sit down and find common ground.

NATO Spokesperson: Will now go to Natalia Drozdiak from Bloomberg.

Natalia Drozdiak (Bloomberg): Thank you so much for my question. I just [inaudible]… that NATO wants to keep an open door policy with Ukraine, but could it not in either of these responses or in responses going forward to Russia, would NATO consider, in writing, saying that you Ukraine is not on track for membership anytime soon? Depending on the wording, this wouldn’t necessarily close the door to membership, but it would simply state the reality of the situation.

NATO Secretary General: What we have made clear is that we will not compromise on some core principles. And one of them is, of course, that every nation has the right to choose its own path. So NATO respects a country or a nation when they decide to apply for NATO membership, as for instance, Ukraine, or when they decide to not apply for a NATO membership as Finland and Sweden have done.

So, this is about respecting the right for self-determination. And then, at the end of the day, decisions on membership will have to be made by consensus among the 30 Allies and, of course, the country that applies for a membership. And that is, fundamental principles and that is also, of course, reflected in the NATO positions.

NATO Spokesperson: Next question, we’ll go to Courtney Kube from NBC.

Courtney Kube (NBC): Thank you. I want to ask you about the NATO Response Force. Mr. Secretary General, can you give us your assessment over whether you think that is going to actually be activated and when? There’s a lot of talk here in the US that it could be activated in advance of some sort of movement by Russia as more of a deterrent? And then, can you give us a sense of what you think the ultimate size could grow to, the number of troops and any special capabilities, any kind of insight into that?

NATO Secretary General: We are now reaching out to Russia once again to try to pursue a path of dialogue and to find a political solution. That’s the reason why we sent them this evening the written proposals from 30 NATO Allies covering a wide range of different issues.

But of course while we are hoping for, and working for, a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst. And therefore, in parallel with our efforts on the dialogue track, we are also increasing the readiness of our forces. And NATO Allies have also increased the presence including in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea region, with more ships and more planes, partly to conduct surveillance, to monitor, to have the best possible picture of the developments in and around Ukraine, but also to provide reassurance to Allies.

And then, part of that is that we actually some weeks ago increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force. This response force it’s composed of different elements and the lead element of the NATO Response Force consists of around 5000 troops. It’s currently led by France. But also other Allies contribute troops to this lead element, and it can be deployed within days.

And then, we have additional follow-on troops that can also be deployed on short notice. And to deploy the NATO Response Force, or any element of the NATO Response Force, we need the decision by the North Atlantic Council, by NATO. And that decision will be made, if necessary, and we will deploy, if necessary. We have plans in place that we can activate, execute on very short notice. So what we have done over the last two weeks is to increase readiness.

And then, what we’ve done over the last years, since Russia used force against Ukraine the last time, we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with battlegroups in the Baltic countries and Poland, and also more air policing and naval presence.

I welcome the US decision to assign [8500] troops on high readiness to the NATO Response Force, just demonstrating the very strong commitment from the United States to European security and demonstrating the strength of NATO, bringing NATO Allies together and having a multinational force like the NATO Response Force.

NATO Spokesperson: We’ll take the next question from Denis Dubrovin from TASS.

Denis Dubrovin (TASS): Thank you very much, good evening. My question is about the possibility for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. As NATO has said that there will be no compromise on this. Should we understand that the decision of Bucharest Summit will not be dismissed? As of now, many politicians in Ukraine and Georgia are using this statement to show to its people that their countries will become members of NATO and the European Union very soon. It was the case, for example, in Maidan in 2014. Don’t you feel that you are lying or gets the wrong signal to those countries? Thank you very much.

NATO Secretary General: We are standing by the core principles on which European security has been based for many years, for decades. And that is that we respect the sovereign right of every nation to choose what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of, or [doesn’t] want to be a part of. And that’s the reason why we, of course, respect decisions by Georgia and Ukraine to apply for membership and also, the reason why we have engaged in a very strong and close partnership with both these countries.

Our focus now is on the reforms, is to help to modernize and strengthen the defense and security institutions, and to meet NATO standards. But also while we respect decisions of countries not to apply for membership, for instance, as Finland and Sweden, but also with them, we have very close partnership, politically strong and close consultations, and also our forces exercise together, train together, and we have achieved very high degree of interoperability.

So this is about respecting nations and their right to choose their own path. And that has not changed. And that is actually a principle that also Russia has subscribed to many times, starting with the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, but also the Paris Accord in 1990, and many other documents where this principle has been clearly stated.

NATO Spokesperson: We’ll now go to Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Thomas Gutschker (FAZ): Thanks a lot. Secretary General, my first question is: is there anything new in your, in the answer that has been transmitted to Russia that did not come up when Russian officials were at NATO for the last NATO-Russia Council? And the second question: there clearly is risk that Russia takes this written response as a pretext to attack Ukraine because its requests have not been fulfilled, obviously. So why did you still decide to reply in written form? Thanks.

NATO Secretary General: We decided to reply in written form because we take it very seriously, the efforts to try to make progress in our political dialogue with Russia. And we have listened to Russian concerns, we have listened also to the Russian call for a written response.

And I also think it’s helpful not only to meet in the NATO-Russia Council, as we did a couple of weeks ago, having an oral, and open, and frank discussion on many of these issues, but also actually to go one step further, and to write down and agree, among 30 Allies, proposals, ideas, topics, where we believe it is possible to make progress, to find a way forward and to find areas where we can actually agree.

And that’s a reason why we have put all this into a written document. We, of course, many of these positions and views were also reflected in the discussion we had in the NATO-Russia Council. But the fact that we now are submitting a written document provides us with the opportunity to be more specific, to go more into the detail, and to be more concrete on everything from how to reduce the risks from missiles, short range, medium range missiles, reduce the risk of nuclear weapons, arms control, to transparency on military activities, or cyber threats, and how to reduce threats from, for instance, space based weapons.

We strongly believe that within these areas there is actually plenty of room also for Russia, to see benefits and something that can be mutually reinforcing the security both for Russia and for NATO Allies. And that’s the reason we have conveyed the proposals and that’s the reason why we really hope that Russia will read through them, the proposals and the documents from NATO and from the United States, and then be ready to continue in further dialogue.

Let me also add that there’s no secret that we are far apart, and that there are some serious differences between NATO and Russia. But at the same time, that makes it just even more important that we look into the proposals, listen in reciprocal way to our concerns, and try to identify political solutions where we can agree to prevent new armed conflict in Europe which will, of course, be extremely serious, and something we all have to try to prevent.

NATO Spokesperson: The next question, we’ll go to Greg Palkot from FOX News.

Greg Palkot (FOX News): Thank you, Oana and good evening Secretary General. Thank you for allowing us to ask these questions. I’ve got to ask the question that I asked you two weeks ago, frankly. Are we closer to war with Russia now than we were two weeks ago, considering the developments of recent days?

NATO Secretary General: Tensions are increasing. Russia continues its military build-up. And we see also more troops not only in and around Ukraine, but also now in Belarus, where Russia is in the process of deploying thousands of combat troops, [dozens] of aircraft, S-400 air defence systems and a lot of other very advanced capabilities. And this takes place under the disguise of an exercise, but it integrates very much the Russian forces and the Belarusian forces. And these are highly capable, combat ready troops, and that there is no transparency on these deployments. So of course, this adds to our concerns. It adds to the tensions and it shows that there is no de-escalation. On the contrary, it’s actually more troops, more capabilities in more countries. But at the same time, that makes it just even more important to engage in political effort to find a political solution.

NATO Spokesperson: Will now go to Beata Plomecka from Polish Radio.

Beata Plomecka (Polish Radio): Hello, Secretary General. Beata Plomecka, Polish Radio. On the more transparency on the military exercises. What do you mean by this? Do you envisage the reduction of military exercises? Because if you reduce exercises, then what do you need the forces, for example? And the second thing is, do you have all Allies on board? Because in recent days we had some doubts about, for example, the German solidarity. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: All Allies are on board. All Allies have agreed. This is a document that all Allies have negotiated and agreed, and that I have now on behalf of 30 Allies sent to Russia. So all Allies are behind these positions, these proposals.
And all Allies also support what I would call the dual-track approach, deterrence and defence combined with dialogue.

It’s not possible for me to go into the specifics of each and every proposal, but what I can say is that we have actually proved before that transparency on exercises can be very helpful.

We have something called the Vienna document, which is agreed in the OSCE framework. And we strongly believe that we should re-invigorate that dialogue, that process, and to try to modernize the document to allow, for instance, observation, inspection of military exercises, and also to address a loophole in the existing agreements where snap exercises had not allowed for any kind of inspection. So this is partly about adhering to existing agreements and partly modernizing developing and strengthening the agreements on how to provide transparency on military activities, including exercises.

And I think the importance of this is demonstrated, illustrated as we speak. Because with the significantly increased Russian deployment of combat ready troops in Belarus, and aircraft and advanced systems like S-400, and fighter aircraft that is taking place now as an exercise.

And of course, that is exactly why we need inspection and transparency on exercises. Because we have seen before, we saw that in Crimea in 2014, we’ve seen it many times before, that exercises, high readiness of forces as part of an exercise, is used as a disguise to launch an attack.

So anything that can improve predictability, transparency on exercises will also help to reduce tensions and prevent exercises being used as a pretext, as a disguise for aggressive military reactions.

NATO Spokesperson: We have time for two last questions and we’ll go to Ketevan Kardava from TV Imedi, Georgia.

Ketevan Kardava (TV Imedi): Good evening to everybody. Mr. Secretary General, Blinken says that US offers path forward in response to Russian demands. Do you really believe that it is possible when talking about Russia? And second question does the written reply sent to Russia includes the position of NATO on Georgia’s future membership? And the final point, do things that so far empty dialogue, give aggressor the chance to occupy and annex the neighbours? Thank you so much.

NATO Secretary General: A political solution is still possible. But then of course, Russia has to engage in good faith, to de-escalate and to sit down and really make a real effort to find a way forward, where we can find a political solution. We have made our proposals. We are listening, we are ready to listen to Russian concerns and engage in reciprocal efforts to find our way forward.
On a membership, well, we have stated clearly, that we of course, respect and not compromise on the right of any nation to apply for membership. That’s a core principle for European security.

Then, I think it is important to also understand that we have proven before that it is possible to make agreements with Russia that is of mutual benefit both for Russia and NATO Allies. We have decades of arms control, which has actually reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by, on the NATO side with roughly 90%, and banned different types of nuclear weapons, and also limited the number of strategic warheads in Russia and in the United States. So arms control has proven effective before. And that’s one of the reasons why we think is important to re-engage once again in real efforts to strengthen and agree on arms control.

But we are not naïve. And we need to make sure that whatever we agree in different formats, this can be bilateral agreements Russia – the United States, it can be agreements in the OSCE, can be also things we agree in different formats, it has to be balanced, it has to be reciprocal, and it has to be of course, verifiable.

And therefore, at the same time as we are engaging in a serious effort to engage with Russia in a political effort, political dialogue, we are also stepping up when it comes to readiness of forces, sending a clear message to Russia that if they use force against Ukraine or another country, once again, it will have serious consequences.

And, of course, there’s absolutely security guarantees for all NATO Allies. And that’s also a reason why we have increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force.

NATO Spokesperson: And for the final question, we’ll go to Eirini Zarkadoula from ERT/ ANA.

Eirini Zarkadoula (ERT/ANA): Thank you Oana for the floor. Mr. Secretary General, a while ago, Secretary Blinken told that whether Russia choose the path of diplomacy, whether they are they choose the path of aggression, we are prepared. Do you feel that we can still choose the path of diplomacy? Or are you scared that we are moving towards the path of further escalation with regarding the fact that the United States have mentioned that clearly our favour of open door policy that NATO, of course, is in favour of as well. Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: So NATO decides on NATO’s open door policy and all NATO Allies, including United States, they stand by NATO’s open door policy. But also of course, we stand by the core principle, which is linked to that open door policy that every nation has the right to choose its own path.

We are concerned because we see that the military build-up continues. But for me that’s not an argument against dialogue. For me, that’s an argument in favour of engaging in dialogue, to prevent a new armed conflict. So we are prepared both, to engage in serious dialogue, that’s reason why I put forward the proposals today. But we’re also of course prepared for an eventuality, or a situation, where Russia once again decides to use force.

And we are conveying a message of that that will have severe consequences, sanctions. NATO Allies provide support to Ukraine. That will also increase the cost [for] Russia if they decide to use force, to conduct aggressive actions against one way or another against Ukraine. And we are removing any question about our ability to defend and protect all Allies by increasing the presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, and also increasing the readiness of our NATO response force and being ready to respond if needed.

NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this press conference from NATO Headquarters. Good evening.