US seeks to avoid Ukraine conflict in talks with Russia
The high-stakes talks between the United States and Russia fell through on Monday as the Biden administration tries to avoid an invasion of Ukraine.
Washington has rejected Moscow’s demands that NATO stop expanding and that Ukraine not be allowed to join the alliance.
“We will not allow anyone to slam NATO’s open door,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said after a special session of the Strategic Stability Dialogue, the location of the Geneva meeting.
And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov dismissed the alarm from the United States and its allies that Moscow’s assembly of more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border increased the risk of war.
“We explained to our counterparts that there were no plans or intentions to attack Ukraine – quote, quote -” Ryabkov told reporters. “There is no reason to be afraid of an escalating scenario in this regard.”
Still, the two sides called for further discussions on other security considerations, signaling an opportunity for cooperation to calm heightened tensions.
“Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities and concerns,” Sherman said.
The Biden administration has raised the possibility of a bilateral missile systems deal similar to the old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the United States withdrew under the Trump administration, and potentially setting deadlines. limits on the size and scope of military exercises as a means of convincing Russia to reduce the build-up of its troops on the border with Ukraine.
The White House has threatened severe economic sanctions if Russia launches a military incursion into Ukraine.
Sherman, who led the talks for the United States, called the talks “straightforward and frank” and said the two sides had agreed to speak again soon without setting out specific plans.
U.S. officials lowered expectations for the talks ahead of the meeting, which took place after two phone calls between President BidenJoe Biden Australia accepts 0.5 billion tank deal with US: Jim Jordan report rejects Jan 6 panel request to cooperate with Senate Ice Change SALT inquiry MORE and russian president Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Five Things to Know as US and Russia Seek Ukraine Solution Prospects darken as US and Russia prepare to meet over Ukraine in less than a month.
“I don’t expect breakthroughs to be achieved on Wednesday. I don’t expect any breakthrough on Thursday, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a Monday afternoon briefing, referring to separate talks with Moscow scheduled for later this week. “This is the start of a diplomatic process.”
Sherman expressed hope that future talks would help ease tensions along Ukraine’s border, but said U.S. officials received no indication during Monday’s session that Russia plans to defuse by withdrawing his soldiers.
“It is very difficult for diplomats to do the work that we are doing if we have no hope,” she told reporters after talks with Ryabkov, which lasted more than seven hours.
Putin’s ultimate motivation, meanwhile, is a mystery.
Experts and officials have questioned whether he had amassed troops at the Ukrainian border with the aim of invading or more as a means of securing concessions from the United States and NATO.
“So far we have not seen any change in the position of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine, and it is unclear what would prompt the Russians to do this,” said Angela Stent, relations expert. American and European with Russia. . “The fundamental problem here is that no one really knows why Putin fabricated this crisis.”
The United States will join its NATO allies on Wednesday in Brussels for a Russia-NATO Council meeting, then in Vienna on Thursday, where Russia and Ukraine will be present at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
White House press secretary Jen psakiJen Psaki Media says COVID alarm is a hard habit to break told reporters the administration viewed the meetings as a “set of conversations” and officials would be able to assess where things stand at the end of the week.
Highlighting a message the administration tried to hammer home, Psaki also said that no discussion of Allied security would take place without their input.
“No talks about Europe without Europe,” she said. “No talks about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
William Taylor, vice president of Russia and Europe at the US Institute for Peace, said public statements by US and Russian officials on Monday indicated some optimism about the possibility of finding areas for cooperation, in particular concerns about both sides of missile deployments on the continent. and risk reduction around military exercises.
“There is some optimism that, if this is really the concern the Russians have about missiles, or about being invaded by Ukrainians, that can be resolved. It looked like there had been an agreement on it, ”he said. “I hope that by the end of the week after all these other conversations have taken place, the Russians and the Americans and the Europeans and the rest of the NATO allies would agree to continue one or both, ideally. these two treaties. “
Taylor, a former senior US diplomat in Ukraine, added that despite talks taking place amid Russia’s massive military build-up against Ukraine, he did not view the meetings themselves as a “concession.” American.
“I don’t see conversations that lead to an understanding of each party’s concerns about the other – I don’t see that as a concession. I think it is valuable, from a diplomatic point of view and from a national security point of view, it is useful to get information about what the other side thinks, ”he said.
Stent said the prospect of talks about a new missile deal or a new conventional forces deal in Europe made sense “as long as the United States stands firm on unreasonable things,” such as reducing the NATO footprint.
Yet Republicans have used the atmosphere of the meetings to attack Biden for being weak on the world stage, a key theme of their 2022 midterm election strategy.
“President Biden’s continued weakness towards our adversaries around the world encouraged Putin’s latest military aggression and endangered Ukraine’s territory,” the representative said. Élise StefanikElise Marie StefanikStefanik Supports Timken, Ohio Run for First Cycle Senate Approval More Appropriate Nominees for Photo of the Year ‘Person of the Year’ MORE (NY), the third House Republican, said in a statement Monday.
Stefanik, along with nine other House Republicans, introduced legislation on Monday to increase US support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, though it also served as an attack on the Biden administration’s strategy. .
A provision in the bill, titled Securing Ukraine’s Autonomy by Strengthening its Defense Law, seeks to override Biden’s sanctions waiver over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that connects Russia to Germany, an area key to conflict between Republicans and administration. which has the tacit support of Congressional Democrats, who have also opposed the lifting of sanctions on the pipeline.