State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the US and NATO’s written response to Russia’s security demands, leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, are genuine. Both the State Department and the Pentagon denied being behind the leaks, but stood by them.
Originally intended to remain classified, documents published by El Pais on Wednesday revealed that the US and NATO have rejected Russia’s request that the alliance halt its eastward expansion, and NATO’s response also reiterated its support for “the right of other states to choose or change security arrangements,” rebuking Russia’s demand that it accept neither Ukraine nor any new members, and called on Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine, suggesting that the bloc wants Russia to cede control of Crimea to Kiev.
“We did not make these documents public, but now that they are, we can confirm what we have always said,” Price told reporters at a press conference later on Wednesday.
“We are united with our NATO allies … we have gone the extra mile to seek, to find, to test the proposition that there is a diplomatic solution to this crisis.”
Price’s statement was almost identical to one made earlier by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who also denied that the US was behind the leak, yet celebrated the documents now being out in the open.
Neither Price nor Kirby outrightly rejected the idea that another NATO ally could have leaked the files to El Pais, which is a consistently pro-NATO newspaper.
Asked to directly confirm the veracity of the files, Price replied “I have seen nothing to suggest that these documents are not authentic.”
“If the source of these documents, whoever that source may be, thought that by leaking them that they would embarrass the US,” Kirby continued with a smile, “they will find that they were sorely mistaken.”
While both Price and Kirby said in unison that the US has “gone the extra mile” to seek a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, Moscow does not see things that way. Russia has repeatedly called for an end to NATO’s expansion into the former Warsaw Pact states, a promise the US-led West made at the end of the Cold War but subsequently reneged on.
Russia also points to the 1999 OSCE Charter for European Security, which says that each country “has an equal right to security,” and countries “will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states.” While Western leaders claim that NATO is a purely defensive alliance and its expansion to Russia’s borders would not threaten Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian media last week that it was “difficult” to view the alliance this way, considering its interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya.