Pentagon says documents published by EL PAÍS show US is willing to negotiate with Russia

Spokesperson John F. Kirby said the letter confirms to the world that Washington is working hard to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis

Ukraine crisis
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.Andrew Harnik (AP)

Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said on Wednesday that the confidential documents published exclusively by EL PAÍS – and which included the responses by Washington and NATO to Russia’s requests for security guarantees – show that the United States has the willingness to negotiate with the Kremlin in order to solve the crisis in Ukraine.

Kirby mentioned the documents in his opening remarks ahead of a news conference at the Department of Defense. “We did not make this document public, but now that it is, it confirms to the entire world what we’ve always been saying: there is no daylight between our public statements and our private discussions,” he said.

“NATO and its partners are unified in their resolve and open to constructive and serious diplomacy. The United States has gone the extra mile to find a diplomatic solution. And if Russia actually wants to negotiate a solution as it claims it does, this document certainly makes clear that there is a path forward to do so,” he said.

Asked by a reporter, Kirby said he would not go into further details about the US’s proposal. “A European news outlet decided to publish that proposal and you can go look for it yourself,” he said. “It demonstrates that what we’ve said publicly is the same as what we’ve been saying privately to the Russians, that we are willing, with an eye towards reciprocity, to consider addressing mutual security concerns on the European continent.”

Moscow has reacted cautiously to the documents. The only statement by a high-ranking public official on Wednesday came from the press secretary for President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, who said that “we did not disseminate anything, I don’t want to comment on this.” Peskov told the press that the Kremlin had paid special attention to the material, but he did not add anything to the statements made a day earlier by the president.

If Russia actually wants to negotiate a solution as it claims it does, this document certainly makes clear that there is a path forward to do so
Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby

Russia’s main state news agency, RIA Novosti, has confirmed the authenticity of the documents through its own diplomatic contacts. In a short news story, the agency stated: “‘Yes,’ said the source after being asked whether they could confirm the authenticity of the document.”

Asked about his assessment of the news story published by EL PAÍS and whether he felt that the documents had been leaked on purpose, Peskov did not give a direct answer. “We don’t know, and it is not our job to make guesses with coffee grounds, so I will not make any comments,” he said.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on January 27 that he figured the contents of the letters would become public one day. He said that while American colleagues preferred to keep the diplomatic dialogue confidential, its contents had been agreed to with all of the US’s allies and with the Ukrainian side. “I have no doubts that they will be leaked in the short term,” said Lavrov at the time.

In mid-November of last year, the Russian Foreign Ministry leaked several pages containing confidential conversations with Berlin and Paris regarding separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

As part of the current negotiations on the security guarantees demanded by the Kremlin, one of the proposals made by the US and NATO is that neither the West nor Russia should deploy military forces in Ukraine. Regarding this initiative, Peskov reiterated Putin’s position that if Ukraine were a member of NATO it could consider the possibility of attacking Russia, by “invading the Russian region of Crimea, for instance.” And that would lead to the threat of war between Russia and the NATO bloc, he added.

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