Leaked Text Suggests Possible US-Russia Missile Deal

BRUSSELS — The United States may be willing to strike a deal with Russia to ease tensions over missile deployments in Europe if Moscow pulls back from the brink in Ukraine, according to a leaked document published in a Spanish newspaper on Wednesday.

The daily El Pais published two documents last week purporting to be written responses from the United States and NATO to Russia’s proposals for a new security deal in Europe. The US State Department declined to comment on them.

Referring to the second document, NATO said it never comments on “alleged leaks”. But the text closely mirrors statements made to the media last week by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he outlined the 30-nation military organization’s position on Russia’s demands.

The American document, marked as a confidential “non-paper”, indicates that the United States would be willing to discuss in consultation with its NATO partners “a transparency mechanism to confirm the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles. at the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland”. .”

This would happen on the condition that Russia “offer reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of our choice in Russia.”

Aegis Ashore is a short to medium range missile defense system. Russia maintains that the site in Romania could be easily adapted to fire cruise missiles instead of interceptors, which ram their target and carry no warheads, a claim Washington has denied.

Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility again on Tuesday, saying that “there are MK-41 launchers out there that could be configured to fire Tomahawks.” He said that “these are offensive systems that could reach thousands of kilometers into our territory. Isn’t that a threat to us?

The US document says Washington should consult with NATO allies on the potential offer, especially with Romania and Poland.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the leaked documents, saying only that “we haven’t released anything.” In comments to state news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian Foreign Ministry also declined to confirm or deny that the documents released by El Pais were genuine.

Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have grown in recent months, after Putin deployed more than 100,000 troops to areas near Ukraine’s borders, including neighboring Belarus, backed by tanks, artillery, helicopters and fighter planes. Russian officials have insisted that Moscow has no intention of invading.

The United States emphasized after its written proposals in the leaked document that “progress can only be made on these issues in an environment of de-escalation with respect to Russia’s threatening actions toward Ukraine.”

In his first public remarks on the standoff in more than a month, Putin on Tuesday accused the United States and its allies of ignoring Russia’s central security demands, but said Moscow was willing to talk more. to ease tensions over Ukraine.

His remarks suggest that a possible Russian invasion may not be imminent and that at least another round of diplomacy is likely.

After talks on Wednesday in Kiev with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stressed that “it is essential that the dialogue continues”. Otherwise, Rutte said, “it is clear that a new aggression against Ukraine will have serious consequences.”

Russia’s military buildup has already weighed on Ukraine’s economy, but Zelenskyy said his government has taken steps to calm markets and the local currency, the hryvnia. He said Ukraine had also strengthened its combat capabilities and its armed forces, but stressed that “we only think about peace and the disoccupation of (our) territories, only through diplomatic means”.

Notable in its absence from the leaked documents is any mention of Ukraine’s hopes of joining NATO. Putin demanded that NATO stop welcoming new members and withdraw its troops and equipment from countries that have joined the alliance since 1997, almost half of its strength.

In the leaked NATO-related document, the 30 allies said they “reaffirm our commitment to NATO’s open door policy,” without specifically mentioning Ukraine. Under Article 10 of NATO’s founding treaty, other European countries can be invited if they serve European security objectives.

At a NATO summit in 2008, NATO leaders said they welcomed “the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO membership”, adding: “We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”

Russia invaded Georgia later that year and in 2014 annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Around 14,000 people have been killed in the still simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine. Their membership plans have been on hold for years, although NATO continues to support them and promote reforms.

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Litvinova reported from Moscow. Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Matt Lee in Washington, Aritz Parra in Madrid and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

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