US expects January talks with Russia over Ukraine, Europe security
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The United States said Tuesday it expects talks with Russia over Ukraine tensions and European security more broadly to start in January, while warning Moscow some of its proposals are "unacceptable."
"There will be no talks on European security without Europe," Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters.
"We have been clear we will do this with" the NATO Western defensive alliance of 30 states, she added, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated a preference for one-to-one talks with the United States.
"On the bilateral engagement, we will decide on a date together with Russia and we believe that that will take place in January," said the diplomat.
She added the Washington-led transatlantic alliance would soon invite Moscow to a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council -- a consultation forum created in 2002 -- a proposal rejected so far by the Russians.
"My sense is that we will be seeing movement in these channels in the month of January," Donfried said.
The United States has been sounding the alarm since mid-November that Moscow could be planning a large-scale attack on its ex-Soviet neighbor Ukraine and has warned Putin of unprecedented sanctions.
Western governments have accused Moscow of amassing some 100,000 troops near its border with eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has been fighting pro-Russia separatists since 2014.
When asked whether sanctions could include the radical option of cutting Russia off from the Swift international payment network, an essential cog in the wheel of global finance, the US official said nothing was off the table.
Russia denies plotting an invasion and has demanded legal guarantees over its security from the United States and NATO, demanding the alliance stop an eastward expansion.
Last week Moscow presented demands to Washington and NATO, saying the alliance must not admit new members or establish military bases in ex-Soviet countries.
"There are some things that we're prepared to work on," Donfried said.
But, she added, "there are other things in those documents that the Russians know will be unacceptable."
She said she had no new information of whether Moscow was continuing to build up its troops on the Ukrainian border but called on Russia to "de-escalate."
"We continue to be deeply concerned about the Russian military presence on Ukraine's borders."
On Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had not "seen anything that would allay our concerns."
Donfried also confirmed the United States continues to provide "defensive military systems" to Kiev, noting there was a delivery in the past week.