In U.S.-Russia Talks Over Ukraine, Kyiv Gets a Voice

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It remains uncertain whether Moscow will join discussions at the pan-European OSCE meeting.

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At the meeting, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who holds the rotating chair of the OSCE, proposed talks in the organization that would address Ukraine and ways to reduce military tensions between Russia and the West.

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Warning that the risk of war in Europe was as high as it has been since the end of the Cold War, Mr Rao said the OSCE should play a “role in addressing the current security challenges in Eastern Europe.”

“We will remain open to dialogue and ready to take initiatives aimed at mutual understanding and reducing tensions in the OSCE region,” he said in his opening remarks at Thursday’s meeting.

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Russia, which has mobilized nearly 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, is calling for changes to the Western security system linked to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

After the US-Russia meeting in Geneva on Monday and the NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the prospects for further talks remain uncertain. Western officials have rejected Russian demands to block NATO’s eastern expansion, and the US has refused to discuss militarily in Europe.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Wednesday that if the situation with the West worsens, it could have “the most unexpected and dire consequences for European security”.

US and European officials hope the OSCE talks will allow them to discuss a wider range of issues. Ukraine says it hopes talks can avert the conflict.

“We would welcome the possibility of creating additional dialogue within the framework of the OSCE,” said Yevgeny Tsimbalyuk, the representative of Ukraine in the organization. “Why? It’s very simple. If we talk, it means we don’t shoot.”

Russia did not close the door to engage in a new set of OSCE discussions on the security situation and Ukraine, but warned it would not allow its security demands to turn into “a senseless exchange of situations” in Vienna.

Russia’s representative to the OSCE ambassador said, “If we do not hear a constructive response to the proposals made within a reasonable time frame … we will do all we can to draw appropriate conclusions and ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats.” Will be compelled to take necessary measures.” Alexander Lukashevich said at Thursday’s meeting.

OSCE was created after the 1975 Helsinki Accords as a forum for negotiations between the West and the Soviet bloc. Since the breakup of the Soviets, it has overseen the conventions and treaties that kept most of Europe stable and secure. It is a regional forum that brings together Russia, Ukraine, the US, the European Union and many other European countries.

In recent years the OSCE has lost its relevance, divided by rising tensions between Russia and the West, as well as between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The organization was tasked with helping oversee the Minsk Agreements, which followed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and intervention in Ukraine’s east. In recent years, OSCE monitors have been repeatedly blocked from border monitoring by Russia and harassed by Russian-backed separatist forces, the organization says. Monitors report almost daily violations of the ceasefire that is meant to bring peace to Ukraine, where nearly 14,000 people have died since 2014.

US officials say his offer of talks on military and other security issues at the OSCE is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clear choice: On the one hand, a new Russian intervention in Ukraine would trigger unprecedented sanctions from the West. On the other hand, bilateral talks between Washington and Moscow, NATO discussions and consultations in the OSCE together offer a way out of the crisis.

A senior State Department official said, “We can talk about things like military transparency, we can talk about conventional forces. We can talk about building confidence, reducing tensions on the ground.” can talk about.” “So yes, we are ready to go to work. But there are a lot of questions about whether Russia is ready to do that.”

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the principal US negotiator with Russia on Ukraine, has said Washington is open to discussions on the placement of missiles in Europe, reciprocal steps on the size and scope of military exercises, and transparency around military moves.

The OSCE, which handles conventional but not nuclear security, is a forum that potentially allows Washington to bring Ukraine into the discussion about it.

Ukrainian officials say they have a number of issues they would like to resolve through the OSCE talks. These include transparent steps by Russia to move its troops away from its border, better access to OSCE monitors across Ukraine, cyber attacks from Russia, energy security and the situation in Crimea.

Western diplomats say Russia could benefit from working through the OSCE if the security concerns Moscow has raised are genuine and not an excuse to attack Ukraine. OSCE may address Russian concerns, including the proximity of large-scale NATO exercises to Russia. It could address disputes over US long-haul military flights and NATO ships in the Black Sea.

The OSCE has sometimes made a significant difference to the conditions in the Donbass, the part of eastern Ukraine under the control of Russia-backed separatists since 2014. In 2019, the Slovak president of the organization managed to persuade Moscow and Kiev to rebuild a bridge. People have to cross the front line for vital services and supplies.

Diplomats say Moscow appears wary of engaging in lengthy discussions of the OSCE, which could lead to a standoff, but do not expect to decline the consultation for now.

“The current crisis has demonstrated the breadth and complexity of disagreements between Russia and the West,” said Andrew Lohsen, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, in an analysis on Wednesday. “OSCE has a number of features needed to facilitate resolution of the crisis, provided its participating states are willing to invest in the effort,” he said.

Write [email protected] . on Lawrence Norman


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