US talks on Russia-Ukraine stand-off move to NATO

By: AFP
Published: 08:17 PM, 11 Jan, 2022
US talks on Russia-Ukraine stand-off move to NATO
Caption: US talks on Russia-Ukraine stand-off move to NATO.
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The United States briefed its western allies Tuesday ahead of new NATO-Russia talks to defuse the Ukrainian border crisis, as Kyiv demanded an international summit.

Envoys from Washington and Moscow held inconclusive talks on Monday in Geneva after Moscow deployed forces near Ukraine and demanded wide-ranging security concessions.

The western alliance on Wednesday will renew contact with Moscow officials at a round of talks between senior diplomats from Russia and NATO member states in Brussels.

Then on Thursday the parties head to Vienna for a meeting of the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The United States hopes the diplomacy will head off what it sees as Russia's threat to launch a new military incursion into Ukraine -- without giving much ground on Russia's demands.

But Washington's European allies are keen not to be sidelined, as President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin seeks to roll back what it sees as the West's post Cold War encroachment on its turf.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday reiterated his demand that France and Germany join a new international summit between Moscow and Kyiv to end the conflict.

As the Ukrainian leader pressed for a revival of Paris and Berlin's role, US negotiator Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was at NATO headquarters to brief European allies.

Moment of truth

She brought NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg up to date on the Geneva talks with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and then met NATO ambassadors.

"The United States is committed to working in lockstep with our allies and partners to urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia," she tweeted.

With Stoltenberg, Sherman "affirmed a unified NATO approach toward Russia, balancing deterrence and dialogue", and stressed "our unwavering support for Ukraine".

And, in a tweet addressed to Ukraine's deputy minister of foreign affairs Emine Dzhaparova, she assured Kyiv that the allies "will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine".

After more than seven hours of negotiations in Geneva on Monday, the Russian and US officials both offered to keep talking, though there was no sign of a breakthrough.

The next encounter will come on Wednesday, when ambassadors from the 30 NATO members will meet Russian envoys at their Brussels headquarters.  

Ryabkov has returned to Moscow and Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who described the meeting as "a moment of truth" in Russia-NATO relations.

Moscow has demanded wide-ranging security guarantees from Washington and its allies, including a concrete guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.

The allies have long insisted that NATO membership is a matter for sovereign states to decide for themselves and vowed to preserve their open door policy.

And they have threatened massive economic and financial sanctions against Moscow if its huge troop build-up on Ukraine's frontiers and in already Russian-occupied Crimea turns into a new invasion.

But, speaking after Monday's talks and ahead of his return to Brussels, Grushko insisted: "Our expectations are entirely realistic and we hope that this will be a serious, deep conversation."

He said Russia would demand a comprehensive response from the alliance to its demands.

"We will push for a concrete, substantive, article-by-article reaction to the Russian draft agreement on guarantees," he added.

Some demands 'non starters

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Monday's talks had been positive but that "what's important here is the result. There is nothing to say yet about the result."

Sherman said Russia offered no proof it would not invade or any explanation for why it has deployed some 100,000 troops towards the Ukrainian border.

She had offered de-escalation moves, with Washington and Moscow to agree on reciprocal limits to missile batteries and exercises.

But Sherman insisted that some of Russia's demands were "simply non-starters", including a ban on NATO's further eastward expansion.

Russia has put intense pressure on Ukraine since 2014 after a revolution overthrew a government that had sided with the Kremlin against moving closer to Europe.

Russia has seized and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea and Moscow backs an insurgency in eastern Ukraine in which more than 13,000 people have died.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.