(CNN)The United States has given Moscow its written response aimed at deterring a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.
The response was delivered in person to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan. The written document is intended to address concerns Moscow has publicly released and to outline areas where the US has said it sees potential for progress with Russia — arms control, transparency and stability, the top US diplomat told reporters at the State Department.
Blinken said the US response to Russia “sets out a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it,” telling reporters Wednesday that he expects to have a follow-up discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days now that the document has been received in Moscow.
“The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground,” Blinken said.
It’s not yet clear whether the latest diplomatic overture, which Moscow had sought, will change the course of talks between Russia and the West that have continued over the past several weeks without any apparent movement toward de-escalation as Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border and the US has warned an invasion could be imminent.
The US has repeatedly said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s central demand — that the US and NATO commit to never admitting Ukraine to the alliance — is simply a nonstarter. While Blinken declined to detail specifics presented to Moscow, he said the US response reiterated the West’s public response to uphold NATO’s “open-door policy” rejecting Moscow’s demands that NATO commit to never admitting Ukraine.
“There is no change. There will be no change,” Blinken said of US and NATO support of the alliance’s open-door policy.
“We make clear that there are core principles that we are committed to uphold and defend, including Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances,” he added.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that the US had consulted closely with allies and partners, including Ukraine, in crafting the response, saying at a State Department briefing, “There will be no surprises for our Ukrainian partners.”
The ball is now in Russia’s court, Blinken said Wednesday.
“I think there are important things to work with if Russia is serious about working. And that is up to President Putin. We’ll see how they respond,” he said.
‘Not a formal negotiating document’
President Joe Biden was “intimately involved” in the US written response to Moscow, Blinken said.
“We reviewed it with him repeatedly over the last weeks, just as we were getting, as you know, comments, input, ideas from allies and partners,” Blinken said in response to a question from CNN’s Kylie Atwood.
Blinken contended that the document, which was delivered Wednesday, is “not a formal negotiating document.”
“It’s not explicit proposals. It lays out the areas and some ideas of how we can together, if they’re serious, advance collective security,” he said.
Ukraine received a copy of the US proposals, according to a source familiar.
Blinken said the document had been shared with Congress and that he would brief congressional leaders later Wednesday.
He said the US would not release its document publicly, “because we think that diplomacy has the best chance to succeed if we provide space for confidential talks.”
“We hope and expect that Russia will have the same view and will take our proposal seriously,” Blinken said, adding, “there should be no doubt about our seriousness of purpose when it comes to diplomacy.”
However, US officials acknowledge there is a high possibility that Russia publishes the full document after receiving it.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received the response. “Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Alexander V. Grushko received US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan at his request,” the ministry said in a statement.
NATO also sent a written response to Moscow’s security demands on Wednesday, alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. The NATO proposal was sent in “parallel with the United States,” he said during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium.
Although the positions of Moscow and the alliance are “far apart,” the NATO chief outlined three main areas where NATO sees “room for progress.” He asked that Moscow and NATO reopen their “respective offices in Moscow and in Brussels.”
“We should also make full use of our existing military-to-military channels of communications, to promote transparency and reduce risks,” he said. “And look also into setting up a civilian hotline for emergency use.”
Still hopes for fueling diplomacy
US officials believe that the ideas they formalized in written form could prompt negotiations with Russia but said that would happen only if Putin decides he wants to engage. The purpose of providing the response in writing — a demand Russia has made since it put written ideas forward in December — is to fuel the diplomacy that the US hopes will deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, State Department officials said.
“When the Russians came back and said you need to put this in writing, the understanding on our side as we thought about was OK, if this allows the ultimate decision-maker in Russia to look at the ideas and decide whether to move forward, it’s in our interest, our shared interest among the US, its European allies and partners, to proceed and really test if they’re moving forward on the diplomatic track,” a senior State Department official told reporters after Blinken’s meeting with Lavrov last week in Geneva, Switzerland. “We’re taking this step by step, but we don’t want to be the ones to foreclose the possible diplomatic solution.”
The US has been consulting with allies, including Ukraine, over the last few weeks as they have been developing their proposal. That is one reason the US has not provided the written response until now, administration officials said.
But some allies and experts are skeptical of how much emphasis should be put on this document from the US, as it is not expected to give room for negotiation on Russia’s key demands, and there is concern that Moscow will use the US response as a pretext to say diplomacy has failed.
The senior State Department official acknowledged that such “pessimism may be right, but it’s do you see the glass as half full or half empty, and if you think there’s any opportunity to have this end through some sort of diplomatic negation, we’re going to try that and see if there’s space for that.”
Blinken said in Geneva that US and Russian officials would meet again after the written proposal had been transmitted to Russia.
This story has been updated with background and further developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Casey Riddle, Ellie Kaufman, Darya Tarasova, Lauren Kent and Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report.