Russia shows signs that diplomacy should continue, but it has not moved yet towards de-escalation on the ground, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

“Tomorrow, the NATO defense ministers will meet to address the most serious security crisis we have faced in Europe for decades,” Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference ahead of the ministerial meeting.

He said that NATO follows with “cautious optimism” the signs that Moscow sent about its interest in diplomatic engagement, but warned that “so far, we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.”

Stoltenberg’s remarks came after Russia announced that some of its troops in the western and southern military districts have started returning to garrisons.

“What we need to see is a significant and enduring withdrawal of forces, troops, and not least the heavy equipment,” he said.

He said that NATO has not received yet an answer from Russia on the US-NATO proposals on European security arrangements and cooperation between the military alliance and Russia.

Moscow, according to NATO and Ukrainian officials, recently amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning a military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Russia has denied it is preparing to invade and accused Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

Russia also issued a list of security demands to the West, including a rollback of troop deployments from some ex-Soviet states, and guarantees that some of those states would not join NATO.

In a written response to those demands, Washington said it is committed to upholding NATO’s “open door policy,” while NATO also conveyed the alliance’s own reply “in parallel with the United States.”

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