It’s a first round. Washington and Moscow began tense talks on Monday January 10 with a very uncertain outcome, addressing both the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the European security architecture that Russia wants to redesign by rolling back the NATO.
The meeting began a little before 9 a.m. at the American diplomatic representation in Geneva, Switzerland, in the presence of the deputy foreign ministers of the two countries, Wendy Sherman and Sergei Riabkov, while relations between Washington and Moscow did not never been so tense since the cold war.
Evoking eight hours of exchanges “Frank and direct” with her Russian counterpart, Wendy Sherman assured that the American delegation had unambiguously rejected Russian proposals aimed at preventing the accession of new countries to NATO.
She said she was ready to discuss bilateral issues quickly and in more depth, but on condition that Moscow enters into a logic of de-escalation, proposing to continue these talks soon to go into detail, in particular on the deployment of missiles. “Russia can prove this by sending its troops back to their barracks”, she said during a press conference.
Wendy Sherman also explained that she reiterated to her counterpart that any invasion of Ukraine would result in “Significant costs”, “Huge”, which the West would inflict on Russia. She also assured that Washington had no intention of negotiating on the Ukrainian issue without involving Kiev, nor addressing in detail the architecture of security in Europe without the Europeans. But, for the time being, Russia did not provide ” responnse “ at the American request of ” de-escalation “, she lamented.
No intention to “attack Ukraine”
Sergey Riabkov, for his part, said that Russia does not “Threatens no one”, born “Do not issue an ultimatum”, ensuring that it is in the interest of the Atlantic Alliance to ” make a gesture “ to address Moscow’s concerns. “If that does not happen, it would be a mistake on NATO’s part and it would jeopardize its own security”, he warned.
Judging nevertheless “Possible” an agreement with the United States, despite positions “Poles apart on what to do”, he stressed that this would require compromises and respect by the two countries for their mutual interests.
He praised the seriousness with which the American side had taken Russia’s demands for its security, first and foremost, the legal guarantees never to expand NATO again, above all to the former pro-Western Soviet countries, Ukraine and Georgia in the lead.
According to him, “The situation is not hopeless” therefore, while, for weeks, Russian-Western tensions have continued to worsen, in particular due to the deployment of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers on the borders of Ukraine.
But, he judged, “We must not underestimate the risks linked to a worsening of the evolution of the confrontation”. “We need a breakthrough, a real gesture towards Russia must be made and it must come from NATO”, he hammered, assuring that, “Never ever”, Ukraine should not join the Atlantic Alliance. Russia has warned that it will do no “Concession” on this subject. For him, the concessions to Russia must be made ” quickly “, Mr Riabkov insisting that the negotiation process should not take “Months and years”.
As diplomats exchanged in Geneva, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed on Monday after they jumped on an explosive device in eastern Ukraine, the army said. They are the first soldiers killed this year on the front line with the pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine has been at war since 2014 against pro-Russian separatists who control entire swathes of its territory in the east and of whom Moscow is widely regarded as the military godfather despite its denials. Relations between Ukraine and Russia, already very degraded since 2014, are currently experiencing a peak of tension.