U.S., Russia Talks Yield Little Overall Progress Amid Ukraine Crisis

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‘We believe the threat of invasion is real’, says White House national security adviser

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The build-up of the army has prompted concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to invade a country he considers part of Russia’s sphere of influence or is creating a crisis to evade security concessions from the West.

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Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia had “no intention of attacking Ukraine” and that the West need not fear “any escalation”.

But many US officials believe otherwise.

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“We believe the threat of invasion is real,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told “NBC Nightly News” after the talks ended.

In a briefing with reporters after the conclusion of Monday’s round, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led Washington’s side, said, “We’re just at the beginning, and we don’t know where it’s all going yet. “

Mr Ryabkov described the talks as “difficult, long, very professional, specific, without any attempt to embellish anything, to go around any sharp corners”.

But, he added, “the main questions remain on hold, and we do not see the readiness of the US side to resolve them in a way that suits us.”

Monday’s talks in Geneva had some expected a lot of progress, as the two sides came to the meeting with different goals. The US hopes to ease tensions on Ukraine by involving the Russians in talks on the scope of medium-range missiles and military exercises in Europe. Meanwhile, Russia said it aims to fight the Cold War in Europe by halting NATO expansion, reducing alliance ties with Ukraine and parts of the former Soviet Union, and severely restricting military deployment to the coalition’s eastern sector. The post-security system was to be rebuilt. European member.

The two sides immediately displayed the differences in separate news conferences after a nearly eight-hour meeting.

“We will not allow anyone to shut down NATO’s open-door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance,” Ms Sherman said.

Mr. Rybakov replied, “It is very important that Ukraine can never join NATO in the future. We need iron, legal obligations, not promises, but guarantees… It is a matter of Russia’s national security.” “

A key objective for US officials was to find out whether Russia was ready to de-escalate tensions on terms NATO could accept or was keeping its military options open to attack Ukraine.

“They don’t seem to have come up with an answer to that question,” said Angela Stant, a Brookings Institution fellow and former US national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia.

“No one walked out of talks. The question will be how much Russia insists on demands that NATO says are non-negotiable.

Dmitry Sims, president of the Washington think tank Center for the National Interest, said Mr Ryabkov would convey his sentiment to the Kremlin about whether Russia could achieve its objectives with further talks.

“The question is how this information will be interpreted in Moscow, especially by Putin’s inner circle, especially siloviki—people from the military and security services who have a special influence in decision making at this point,” Mr. Sims said. said.

The US and Russian sides also set different timelines for further talks. Ms Sherman said arms control and other security issues are complex and cannot be negotiated in a matter of weeks. Mr Ryabkov said Russian demands needed to be settled urgently and “we cannot afford any additional delay.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price, referring to the bilateral talks between the US and Russia, said, “We look forward to getting in touch with the Russian Federation again in the coming days to determine when and how these talks will take place.” Will move forward.”

Some of the security issues will be raised again in Brussels on Wednesday at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, a forum for consultations with Moscow. Ms. Sherman and Mr. Ryabkov will lead delegations from their countries at the session. This will be the first time the council has met in more than two years.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday after a meeting with Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna that the organization was looking forward to an agreement on the way forward.

“I really hope that there is a genuine desire on both sides to engage in a process that prevents a new armed conflict in Europe,” he said.

On Thursday, discussions will take place in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a multilateral forum that includes Russia and Ukraine.

Ms Sherman said regional issues, including the unrest in Kazakhstan and the deployment of Russian-led troops there, did not figure in Monday’s talks.

The Biden administration’s willingness to discuss the range of land-based medium-range missiles marks a significant shift for Washington.

The Trump administration had rejected Mr Putin’s proposals to ban the deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe, saying such a move could stifle US options, while the 9M729, a Russian ground-launched cruise ship The missile failed to fire. The US has alleged that it has violated the now-expired Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Russian officials have said Russia does not plan to invade Ukraine, but added that Mr Putin will look at options prepared by his military experts if diplomacy fails or if the West continues. What they call their “offensive line”.

If Russia does attack, US officials are eyeing a range of options, including leverage restrictions on exports to Russia such as semiconductors used in cutting-edge technology, as well as military aid to Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter.

Write Michael R. at [email protected] Gordon, William Mauldin at [email protected] and Ann M. Simmons at [email protected]

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