As expected, the United States and the Western alliance on Wednesday refused to give in to Moscow’s demands for a permanent ban on Ukraine joining NATO, and now it is the Kremlin that has pledged to respond and continue the dialogue. 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko held a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan.

Sullivan delivered in writing the expected answers to the security guarantee proposals Moscow had put forward in December. 

Among the main points Moscow included in the pact proposed to Washington is that NATO should not expand eastward, and troops and weapons should not be deployed in areas where this would be perceived as a threat to Russia. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the Biden administration delivered the written responses but said the document would not be made public because “we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks,” adding that it will now be up to the Kremlin how they want to proceed, Fox News reported

Tensions have been running high in recent weeks over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Russia has deployed approximately 100,000 troops near the border for weeks. 

The Kremlin denied that this would happen, but now after the U.S. responses, eyes are on President Vladimir Putin. He will decide how Russia will respond and whether there are still risks of Europe plunging into war. 

Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. was working in coordination with Ukraine and its allies, with whom they had consulted on the next steps. “We sought their input and incorporated into the final version delivered to Moscow,” he said, adding further that NATO will deliver its document to Russia with approaches to collective security in Europe, which “completely reinforces ours and vice versa.”

He further stated that he expects to have a dialogue in the coming days with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, after the Kremlin has been able to read the document and work out what steps it will take next.

“Should Russia choose further aggression, we step forward with more support for Ukraine’s security and economy,” Blinken said. “And we and our allies and partners are united across the board.” 

“It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way,” he added.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the U.S. rejection and a NATO rejection leave “little ground for optimism,” according to the Associated Press. However, he added that dialogue was still possible, and a Russian response would come soon.

But while diplomatic actions continue, defense preparations against a possible invasion of Ukraine continue to intensify. NATO said it was strengthening its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the United States ordered 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to Europe in case NATO’s defense protocol is activated.

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