A current administration official and two former US national security officials familiar with the planning told NBC News that the Biden administration is going into the next week’s dialogue with Russia unclear whether Moscow is truly serious about discussions, but if it is, US officials are ready to propose talks on scaling back US and Russian troop movements and military drills in Eastern Europe.
According to the sources, the discussions could cover the scope of both powers’ military exercises, the number of US troops deployed in the Baltic states and Poland, advance notice of force movements, and Russia’s nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania.
The Biden administration is promising unprecedented penalties and other strong measures if Russia initiates military strikes against Ukraine, with thousands and thousands of Russian forces mobilised on Ukraine’s border. However, as US officials prepare for a lot of high talks with Moscow beginning Monday, the administration is looking into measures to reduce tensions with Russia.
According to current and former officials, any shift in the US military position in Europe would require Russia to take reciprocal, similar steps to draw up its forces, and taking Russian troops out of Ukraine would not be adequate.
Following the release of this article by NBC News, White House National Security Spokeswoman Emily Horne denied that the US would consider lowering the number of troops stationed permanently in Poland and the Baltic nations.
Following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the US and other NATO members sent a small contingent of troops to Eastern Europe, including armoured vehicles, and increased air and naval patrols as well as high-profile military drills from the Baltics to the Black Sea.
Russia has expressed its unhappiness with NATO’s increased “forward presence” and exercises, claiming that the alliance’s activities represent a threat to Russia.
If effective, such negotiations may resurrect the spirit of the now-defunct 1990 treaty on conventional forces between the West and the Soviet bloc, which mandated Washington and Moscow to exchange intelligence on force and weapon movements. According to experts, the pact played a role in preventing conflict at the conclusion of the Cold War.
Former US officials say the White House has a delicate balancing act as it prepares for talks with Russia, trying to decrease the temperature without surrendering to Russian threats or saber-rattling.