Washington’s written response to Moscow’s security proposals was leaked and published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. While the US isn’t willing to give a written guarantee that Ukraine won’t ever join NATO, the document contained serious offers from the US on the issue of arms control.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been concerned that US MK 41 missile launchers that are deployed in Romania can fit Tomahawk missiles that could potentially target Russia. In the written response, the US said that it was willing to discuss a "transparency mechanism to confirm the absence of Tomohawk cruise missiles" at US bases in Romania and Poland.
In exchange for the verification method, which would likely be in the form of on-site inspections, the US wants Russia to offer "reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of our choosing in Russia."
Russia is also seeking a mutual ban on the deployment of short and medium-range missiles in Europe that were previously prohibited under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which the US withdrew from in 2019. The US said it’s prepared to start talks on "arms control for ground-based intermediate and shorter-range missiles and their launchers."
At this point, there is only one major piece of nuclear arms control between the US and Russia, the New START treaty, which puts limits on the deployment of nuclear warheads, Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers. Last year, President Biden and Putin agreed to extend New START for five years.
The US proposed to Russia to begin negotiations on a follow-on to New Start "immediately." The document reads:
"We share the goal of sustaining limits on intercontinental-range delivery vehicles currently subject to New START … In addition, we must include new kinds of nuclear-armed intercontinental-range delivery vehicles in follow-on arms control agreements. We also must discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons and non-deployed nuclear warheads."
Here is the US response to Russia’s demands regarding Ukraine and NATO, again leaked by El Pais pic.twitter.com/jsmLMjpuWx— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) February 2, 2022
Another major concern for Moscow is the potential deployment of US missiles and combat troops to Ukraine. The US said it’s "prepared to discuss conditions-based reciprocal transparency measures and reciprocal commitments by both the United States and Russia to refrain from deploying offensive ground-based missile systems and permanent forces with a combat mission on the territory of Ukraine."
Neither the US nor Russia commented on the contents of the leaked document on Wednesday, but the Pentagon did confirm its authenticity. Putin said Tuesday that the US is ignoring its main concerns related to NATO expansion, but the Russian leader said he still favors talks.
Even with the NATO issue, the US has signaled it might be willing to give Moscow an informal guarantee that Ukraine won’t be joining the alliance anytime soon. Russia wants a guarantee in writing since the US broke a verbal promise it made at the end of the Cold War not to expand NATO eastward. But if there are real deals made concerning bans on missile and troop deployments to Ukraine, that could alleviate Moscow’s main worries of what a Ukrainian NATO membership could mean.