US intends to discuss missile placements, military exercises with Russia

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The U.S. intends to propose talking about military exercises in Eastern Europe and missile placements when its delegation meets with Russian negotiators on Monday during bilateral talks, a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Saturday ahead of the high-stakes meetings in Europe.

“Russia has said it feels threatened by the prospect of offensive missile systems being placed in Ukraine. As President Biden told [Russian] President Putin, the United States has no intention of doing that. So, this is one area where we may be able to reach an understanding if Russia is willing to make a reciprocal commitment,” the official told reporters. 

The senior administration official also said that the U.S. would be willing to discuss a potential agreement with Russia on the placement of missile systems in Europe.  

Additionally, the official said that the U.S. is “willing to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope” of Russian and U.S. military exercises in Eastern Europe “including both strategic bombers close to each other’s territory and ground-based exercises as well.”  

The Washington Post first reported that the Biden administration was prepared to discuss missile deployments and the scope of military exercises in the looming talks with Moscow.  

The Biden administration official sought to clarify the possible areas of discussion ahead of meetings between U.S. and Russian officials in Europe at the start of next week.  

The White House has pushed back vigorously on an NBC News report that the administration is prepared to propose scaling back troop deployments in Eastern Europe. 

“This is not on the table,” the official said Saturday of possible changes to troop numbers or elements of force posture.  

The official stressed that the U.S. would not make any commitments to Russia that impact the security interests of its allies without first consulting them, and that any potential agreements reached next week would need to first be discussed with officials back in Washington and U.S. allies.  

The bilateral talks between the U.S. and Russia will be closely watched amid escalating tensions between the two countries, as the U.S. worries that Russia may make moves to invade Ukraine as it did in 2014 with the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. 

Russia has amassed thousands of troops at the border with Ukraine. Biden has held two calls with Putin over the last month in an effort to push Russia to deescalate the situation.  

The U.S. has threatened harsh economic sanctions if Russia were to launch a military invasion of Ukraine. Biden administration officials have also repeatedly stressed that such a step would result in the U.S. sending additional security assistance to Ukraine and more forces to defend NATO allies in the region.

Following the bilateral talks, which will begin on Monday, a NATO-Russia Council meeting will take place on Wednesday and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) permanent council, which includes Russia, will take place Thursday.

“Our intention is to have an open, sincere and serious dialogue about European security with the Russians at the table. We want to be inclusive. We don’t want to go over anybody’s head,” U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter told The Washington Post during an interview. “We want them to be able to put all of their concerns on the table. But we reserve the right to put all of our concerns on the table.”

— Updated at 2:18 p.m.

Tags Joe Biden NATO Russia Ukraine

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