US, Russian officials agree to sit down on Ukraine, security issues next month

 US and Russian officials have agreed to sit down to discuss Ukraine and other security issues next month, the National Security Council (NSC) said Tuesday.

In a statement to The Hill, an NSC spokesperson said the US “looks forward to engaging with Russia” for a Strategic Security Dialogue on Jan. 10.

The spokesperson also said the US “understands” that NATO is intending to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Jan. 12. A NATO official confirmed the meeting to The Hill.   

Also, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Permanent Council will meet Jan. 13.

“President Biden’s approach on Ukraine has been clear and consistent: Unite the alliance behind two tracks: deterrence and diplomacy. We are unified as an Alliance on the consequences Russia would face if it moves on Ukraine. But we are also unified in our willingness to engage in principled diplomacy with Russia,” the NSC spokesperson said. 

The talks come amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West as Moscow masses tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine, sparking fears that Russia may be plotting an invasion by early next year. 

Moscow has denied intentions to invade Ukraine, and Reuters reported over the weekend that over 10,000 Russian troops were withdrawing from several regions near Ukraine after conducting military drills.

Russia earlier this month submitted draft security agreements to the US and NATO demanding that the alliance deny Ukraine membership and roll back military deployments.

Last week, both US and Russian officials predicted that security talks would begin in January, though Tuesday’s statement is the first time a concrete date has been given.

The US has said that while some of Russia’s demands warrant discussions, there were other proposals that Moscow knew would be unacceptable.

“When we sit down to talk, Russia can put its concerns on the table, and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia’s activities as well. We will adhere to the principle of ‘nothing about our Allies and partners without our Allies and partners, including Ukraine,’” the spokesperson said. 

“There will be areas where we can make progress, and areas where we will disagree. That’s what diplomacy is about,” he continued.

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