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Live Updates: Ukrainian Soldier Kills 5 at Rocket Factory, Raising Tensions

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Blinken Calls U.S. Letter to Russia a ‘Diplomatic Path Forward’

The United States delivered a written response to Russia’s demands in Eastern Europe, which included its concerns over escalating military tensions in the region.

Russia had previously outlined its concerns and proposals in writing. And last week, I told Foreign Minister Lavrov 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’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 proposal seriously.

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The United States delivered a written response to Russia’s demands in Eastern Europe, which included its concerns over escalating military tensions in the region.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski

The United States and NATO gave formal responses on Wednesday to Russia’s demands that NATO pull back forces from Eastern Europe and ban Ukraine from ever joining the alliance, amid escalating military tensions in Eastern Europe.

Russia had been insisting for weeks that the United States provide written responses to the Kremlin’s demands before it would decide on its next course of action, while asserting that it had no plans to invade Ukraine.

Both Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the American ambassador to Moscow, John J. Sullivan, had personally delivered the United States’ written response to the ministry. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said NATO had also sent its reply.

The American response “sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it,” Mr. Blinken said at a news briefing in Washington. He said he expected to speak in the coming days with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, once Russian officials had read the American paper and were “ready to discuss next steps.”

The document suggests “reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe,” Mr. Blinken said, as well as nuclear arms control in Europe.

The Biden administration has already made such proposals, so it is unclear whether the American response will have any effect on the growing crisis over Russia’s huge troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders.

“It reiterates publicly what we’ve said for many weeks,” Mr. Blinken said.

Mr. Blinken said that the United States had not moved from its refusal to consider ruling out the possibility of future Ukrainian membership in NATO, as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has demanded. But President Biden and other American officials have said there is little possibility Ukraine could join the alliance anytime soon.

“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,” Mr. Blinken said.

Russia has also demanded that the United States remove nuclear weapons from Europe and withdraw troops and weapons from former Soviet bloc countries that joined the alliance after 1997. The United States has deemed those demands “nonstarters.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Mr. Sullivan had delivered the American response in a meeting with the deputy foreign minister, Aleksandr V. Grushko. The terse ministry statement gave no indication of the document’s contents.

Mr. Blinken said that the United States’ response was drafted in close consultation with European allies. “There’s no daylight among the United States and our allies and partners on these matters,” he said.

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NATO Urges Russia to Engage in Talks as Military Tensions Escalate

The NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg criticized Russia’s continued military buildup along Ukraine’s borders but stressed that a diplomatic solution to the standoff was still possible.

Tensions are increasing. Russia continues its military buildup, and we see also more troops not only in and around Ukraine, but also now in Belarus. 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. It shows that there is no de-escalation. On the contrary, it’s actually more troops, more capabilities, in more countries. A political solution is still possible, but then, of course, Russia has to engage in good faith. We have made our proposals. We are listening — we are ready to listen to those Russian concerns and engage in reciprocal efforts to find a way forward.

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The NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg criticized Russia’s continued military buildup along Ukraine’s borders but stressed that a diplomatic solution to the standoff was still possible.CreditCredit…Stephanie Lecocq/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Stoltenberg said at an evening news conference that NATO’s reply to Russia, like the American one, contained proposals for specific areas of negotiation about arms control and transparency of military exercises, and suggested reopening liaison offices between NATO and Moscow.

“A political solution is still possible,” he said. “But Russia has to engage.”

At the same time, NATO has increased the readiness of a 5,000-member rapid-response force, currently led by France, able to deploy quickly to support alliance members. Mr. Stoltenberg noted the continuing buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine and, most worrying, he suggested, the integration of Russian and Belarusian forces “under the disguise of an exercise” with sophisticated weapons, including S400 air-defense systems.

The United States would not release its response publicly, Mr. Blinken said, adding that he hoped Russia would take the same approach. There is no guarantee that Moscow — known for its defiant negotiating tactics — will heed Washington’s appeal.

Mr. Blinken did not indicate what he expected next from the Russians, or when.

“Whether they choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue, whether they decide to renew aggression against Ukraine,” he said, “we’re prepared either way.”

Michael Schwirtz and Steven Erlanger contributed reporting.

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