BY MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is open to discussions with Russia on curtailing possible future deployments of offensive missiles in Ukraine and putting limits on U.S. and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe as part of strategic talks to begin next week, a senior Biden administration official said Saturday.
But, the official said any agreements on either matter would be contingent on Russia removing threats to Ukraine and that no decisions would be made without the consent of Ukraine or NATO. The official also said there was no chance the U.S. would reduce its military presence or arsenal in Eastern Europe as Russia has demanded.
The U.S. official’s comments, made to reporters on condition of anonymity in a White House-organized telephone conference call, were the first to suggest a willingness to compromise on issues tangential to Ukraine.
They came as senior U.S. and Russian diplomats prepare to meet in Switzerland on Monday.
Russia has demanded binding promises that NATO will not further expand eastward and that the U.S. will remove troops and weapons from Eastern Europe in exchange for reducing its expanded troop presence on the Ukrainian border and dropping threats to intervene there.
The U.S. and NATO have rejected those demands out of hand, but have signaled a willing to explore compromises on related issues.
“We think we can at least explore the possibility of making progress with the Russians,” the official said, referring to Monday’s Strategic and Security Dialogue between the U.S. and Russia in Geneva. He added, though, that “there will be no firm commitments made in these talks.”
Monday’s meeting will be followed by discussions between Russia and NATO members on Wednesday and with a broader European audience on Thursday.
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