US says bilateral engagement with Russia likely to start in January

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Bilateral talks between the United States and Russia on Moscow’s recently-proposed security demands are expected to begin in January, a State Department official said Tuesday. 

Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters on Tuesday that the US will “decide on a date” together with Russia to begin discussions.

She also said the U.S. expects to see “movement” in terms of meetings between NATO and Russia, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in January.

Separately on Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he intends to call a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council “as soon as possible in the new year.”

Russia last week released draft security agreements for the U.S. and NATO. It is demanding that Ukraine be denied membership into NATO and that the alliance rolls back military deployments. The demands come as concerns grow that Russia may be preparing to invade Ukraine as Moscow masses tens of thousands of troops near its eastern border. 

In a speech on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday blamed the west for building up tensions in Europe, The Associated Press reported.

He added that Moscow wants “constructive, meaningful talks with a visible end result — and within a certain time frame — that would ensure equal security for all.” 

Donfried reiterated that the U.S. is prepared to discuss the proposals but noted that Moscow knows some of its demands are unacceptable.

“There are some things that we’re prepared to work on and that we do believe that there’s merit in having a discussion,” she said. “There are other things in those documents that the Russians know will be unacceptable.”

Donfried, who last week visited Kyiv, Moscow and Brussels, added that the U.S. will continue to deliver equipment and supplies to Ukraine.

She added that should Russia invade Ukraine, the U.S. is repaired to provide Kyiv additional defensive materials “above and beyond” what Washington is preparing to send.

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