The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance said on Thursday evening that it had received security proposals from Russia intended to reduce tensions with the bloc, but that NATO has its own security concerns as well, which Moscow must respect.
"We are gravely concerned by the substantial, unprovoked, and unjustified Russian military build-up on the borders of Ukraine in recent months, and reject the false Russian claims of Ukrainian and NATO provocations," the Brussels-based alliance said on Thursday. "We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities."
"We are ready for meaningful dialogue with Russia. We reiterate our long-standing invitation to Russia for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in the near future. We are aware of Russia’s recent European security proposals. We are clear that any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on the core principles and foundational documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European Partners," the statement continued.
"Should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures," the alliance further added, noting that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) "is also a relevant platform."
The Western powers have postured as ready to take severe measures against Russia in recent weeks due to an alleged "buildup" of Russian troops in southern Russia, which NATO and the Western media have fretted may be a prelude to an invasion of Ukraine. However, while the US and UK have led the charge in promising to sanction Russia, major European Union powers like France, Germany, Italy and Spain - all members of NATO as well - reportedly oppose such a plan, preferring diplomacy over muscle-flexing.
Some of the US and UK's promised responses include excluding Russia from the SWIFT bank transfer system, urging Germany to close the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that comes from Russia, and the further buildup of NATO forces in the alliance's eastern flank nations, several of which border or are close to Russian territory.
Moscow has made clear it has no intention of invading Ukraine, but also said that it has red lines concerning NATO's relationship with the Eastern European nation, including the positioning of offensive weapons there and the eastern expansion of NATO, especially if Kiev were admitted to the alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed to NATO that these red lines be turned into security guarantees in order to reduce regional tensions.
US President Joe Biden has made clear his administration rejects Moscow's red lines, even while drawing its own in the region. Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Zelenskyy said earlier this year that Ukraine's accession to NATO is the only thing that can create peace in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, where Russian-speaking minorities have defended their autonomy and minority rights from Kiev since 2014 in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.