Lorne Cook and Dasha Litvinova / Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The United States could be willing to enter into an agreement with Russia to ease tensions over missile deployments in Europe if Moscow steps back from the brink in Ukraine, according to a leaked document published in a Spanish newspaper on Wednesday.
The daily El Pais published two documents purported to be written replies from the United States and NATO last week to Russia’s proposals for a new security arrangement in Europe. U.S. officials could not be immediately contacted to confirm that one document is authentic.
In reference to the second document, NATO said that it never comments on “alleged leaks.” But the text closely reflects statements made to the media last by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as he laid out the 30-nation military organization’s position on Russia’s demands.
The U.S. document, marked as a confidential “non-paper,” said that the United States would be willing to discuss in consultation with its NATO partners “a transparency mechanism to confirm the absences of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.”
That would happen on condition that Russia “offers reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missiles bases of our choosing in Russia.”
Aegis is a system for defending against short or intermediate-range missiles. But Russia has claimed in the past that the U.S. could attack with Tomahawk intermediate-range missiles from Aegis Ashore sites. The U.S. document said Washington would have to consult with NATO allies on the potential offer, particularly with Romania and Poland.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the leaked documents, saying only that “we didn’t release anything.” In comments to the state RIA Novosti news agency, Russia’s Foreign Ministry also refused to confirm or deny that the documents published by El Pais were authentic.
Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have mounted in recent months, after President Vladimir Putin deployed more than 100,000 troops to areas near Ukraine’s borders, including in neighboring Belarus, backed by tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes. Putin says he does not intend to order an invasion.
The U.S. underlined after its written proposals in the leaked document that “progress can only be achieved on these issues in an environment of de-escalation with respect to Russia’s threatening actions towards Ukraine.”
Litvinova reported from Moscow. Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.