Lavrov Blinken
(Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken)

Security talks with U.S., NATO in January, Russia’s Lavrov says

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday (Dec. 22) he expects negotiations between Russia and the U.S. and NATO to begin in January.

“It has been agreed that at the very beginning of next year, the first round (of talks) should be bilateral contact between our negotiators and American ones,” Russia’s top diplomat said in an interview with RT. Lavrov said plans were in place for those talks to be followed by negotiations between Moscow and NATO, saying “we also want to do this in January.”

Russia’s proposal for bilateral security guarantees should be one of the topics of the potential meeting, he told the Russian state-funded news network.

Last week, Russia presented the West with security demands in two draft documents, demanding that the U.S. and NATO deny Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations membership into the alliance and asking for a rollback in military deployments. Washington and its allies have refused to provide such pledges, but said they are ready for the talks.

The documents also called for the parties to agree not to deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas that allow them to reach other parties.

The upcoming talks will take place amid heightened tension between Moscow and the West. Russia has been accused by the West of plotting an invasion of Ukraine. Russia denies having plans to launch an attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and weapons deployment of the alliance weapons there as a “red line.”

“We don’t want a war,” Lavrov said Wednesday. “We don’t want to take the path of confrontation. But we will firmly ensure our security using the means we consider necessary.”

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington is working with its European allies to address what he called “Russian aggression” with diplomacy but said the US President Joe Biden opposes the kind of guarantees sought by Putin.

“The president has been extremely clear for many, many years about some basic principles that no one is moving back on: the principle that one country does not have the right to change by force the borders of another, that one country does not have the right to dictate the policies of another or to tell that that country with whom they may associate,” Blinken told reporters in Washington. “One country does not have the right to exert a sphere of influence. That notion should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia expects the US to put forth its position accurately at the upcoming talks so that the process will end with a concrete result.

With reporting by RT, AP, Reuters, The Hill