The United States is ready to discuss with Russia the possibility of restricting military exercises and missile deployments in Ukraine, a senior administration official said on Saturday evening.
A crucial set of talks are due to begin in Geneva on Monday in an effort to avert military conflict, as Russia massages tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.
The senior US official, briefing reporters ahead of the talks, said some areas offer an opportunity for common ground.
“We are prepared to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of such exercises, including both strategic bombers close to each other’s territory and ground exercises as well,” the official said.
It came as Joe Biden prepared to block Republican measures to hit the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline with sanctions, lest the move weaken transatlantic relations in the eyes of the Russian president.
Democrats and the US president oppose Senate legislation because it “would only serve to undermine the unity between our European allies”, even if the pipeline were “a nefarious Russian geopolitical project”.
U.S. and Russian diplomats will meet for a confrontational summit on January 10, amid fears that Russia is considering invading Ukraine and after the Kremlin demanded that NATO cease all expansion in Europe.
A spokesperson said that Nord Stream 2, which critics say will increase the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and undermine Ukraine’s independence, was “a bad deal” for the EU. ‘Ukraine and Europe.
But he added: “Russia would interpret any light of day in our position stemming from the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 as an opportunity to exploit a rift in the transatlantic relationship, and this administration is determined not to give them that. “
“The legislation would only serve to undermine the unity among our European allies at a crucial time when we must present a unified front in response to Russian threats against Ukraine.”
Poland and Baltic States oppose £ 8bn pipeline, which awaits approval from German regulators, as it bypasses Ukraine, removes gas transit charges, and is expected to double Russian gas exports to Germany.
There are fears that the Russian president is using the EU’s dependence on Russian gas to exert political influence on the bloc, and Ukraine says the pipeline threatens its security.