US-Russia talks about Ukraine tensions and 'security guarantees' end on an uncertain note
As tensions simmered over Russia’s threatening troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders, the United States and Russia held a round of crisis talks in Geneva, Switzerland on Jan. 10, kicking off a week of high-level negotiations.
The talks focus on Russian-delivered demands for NATO not to expand further and for guarantees of “strategic stability,” which Moscow put forward after deploying its troops within striking distance of Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held personal talks on Dec. 7 and Dec. 30, during which they agreed to delegate to their representatives further discussion of the Kremlin’s demands, the Kremlin’s so-called “security guarantees.”
The delegations held a preliminary meeting in Geneva late on Jan. 9.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made a number of threats over the course of the talks. In particular, he said that NATO should “pack its bag and go back to 1997,” while the United States will have to “get used to the new situation, adapt and back up ..., otherwise their own security will suffer.”
Meanwhile, the United States declared its adherence to international principles of sovereignty, the territorial integrity of countries including Ukraine, and the freedom of any sovereign state to choose its own relationships and alliances.
The U.S. and Russian delegations were represented by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, and by Ryabkov, respectively.
The talks were held behind closed doors at the U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.
Following the talks, which lasted over seven hours, Ryabkov reiterated the Russian demand for NATO not to expand further, stating “this topic raises very serious objections, to put it mildly.”
“The United States declares that neither Russia nor any other state should have any objections on such issues,” he said at a press conference after the talks.
“We emphasize this is a matter of utmost importance for us, it is very important that Ukraine would never join NATO,” the Russian minister insisted.
“We would like to see the formula adopted by the 2008 Bucharest summit withdrawn at the NATO Summit in Madrid (scheduled for June 29-30). Neither Ukraine nor Georgia should become members of (NATO),” he added.
At the same time, Ryabkov said the situation “is not hopeless,” although he refused to directly answer the question of how Russia would react if its demands were not met.
In turn, Deputy Secretary Sherman said that she had not received an answer to whether Russia was ready to de-escalate, which for the United States means withdrawing its troops from close to Ukraine’s borders.
She stressed that NATO’s “open door” policy was beyond discussion.
The U.S. official did note that the United States was “open to discussing” the size and scope of military exercises “on a reciprocal basis.”
“Russia can prove they have no intention of invading by returning troops to their barracks, or (they can) tell us what exercises are ongoing and what their purpose is,” she said.
According to Sherman, Russia claims that it has no plans to invade Ukraine, claiming the buildup of troops along the Ukrainian are just maneuvers and exercises.
“Sherman, on a call with reporters, reiterates serious financial sanctions are planned if Russia invades Ukraine anew but won't get specific,” BuzzFeedNews journalist Christopher Miller tweeted on Jan. 10.
“She also says more security assistance planned for Ukraine in case of Russian attack. ‘We would increase (aid) and it's not just the (US)’,” he wrote, quoting Sherman.
The U.S. representative also stated that her country had pushed back on security proposals “that are simply non-starters for the United States."
“We will not allow anyone to slam closed the door to NATO membership for anyone. And we will not make decisions about Ukraine or the EU without them,” Miller wrote in a tweet, citing Sherman.
The meeting ended on the agreement of both sides to continue negotiations.
The next round of talks will take place at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels on Jan. 12, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Permanent Council meeting in Vienna on Jan. 13.
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