Meeting with Russia: USA does not want to give guarantees

Status: 10.01.2022 6:24 p.m.

An offer for disarmament talks, but a no to the end of NATO’s eastward expansion: the meeting between the USA and Russia came to an end in Geneva. The Americans once again made their position clear on the Kremlin’s demands.

The meeting between the USA and Russia on the Ukraine crisis ended after almost eight hours in Geneva. The US would have offered disarmament talks, among other things, if Russia took the same steps, said US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Such talks could take place, for example, within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council, which will meet in Brussels on Wednesday. She again rejected calls by Russia for guarantees for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.

The US accuses Russia of a massive deployment of troops on the border with Ukraine. Russia is fueling tensions and must take the first steps towards de-escalation. The Russian leadership, on the other hand, feels threatened by the presence of US troops and weapons in Europe and insists on binding agreements with NATO and the USA – albeit to the exclusion of the EU and Ukraine. At noon, however, Sherman had made it clear on Twitter that “we would not discuss European security without our allies and partners”.

Before the talks, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had told Russian state television that the US side had to be prepared for compromises. Russia has formulated clear positions, even at the highest level, from which “it can no longer simply be deviated from”.

“Complicated Discussion”

The talks are part of the “strategic security dialogue” announced by US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the summer. After an informal working lunch on Sunday, Ryabkov had predicted difficult negotiations and spoke of a “complicated discussion”. A US State Department spokesman said Sherman had stressed the US’s commitment to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, each country has the right to decide for itself which alliance it wants to belong to. Incidentally, the US would welcome progress through diplomacy.

The Ria Novosti news agency quoted Ryabkov today as saying that he feared that Washington would not take Moscow’s call for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion seriously. Referring to the NATO decision of 2008 to offer Ukraine and Georgia the prospect of accession, he asked: “Are you ready to give legal guarantees that this country, like other countries, will not join NATO?” His prognosis is rather pessimistic.

Clear announcements by blinkers in advance

Russia wants assurances that NATO will not expand further east and a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe. The West is worried that the Russian government is preparing a new invasion of the neighboring country after the annexation of Crimea – according to western estimates, Russia has gathered around 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said that, from Washington’s perspective, neither a withdrawal of US troops from Eastern Europe nor a promise not to expand NATO were under negotiation. US officials have shown it as possible that the future stationing of certain missiles in Ukraine could be reduced. In addition, US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe could be limited. For this, however, Russia would have to give up Ukraine, demand US representatives.

Stoltenberg dampens expectations

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile again assured Ukraine of support. Before consulting with the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanischina in Brussels, he said that the military alliance would continue to support the country on the path to NATO membership. Kiev has “the right to defend itself” and NATO will help the Ukrainian government with this.

At the same time, Stoltenberg dampened expectations of the various formats for talks with Russia this week: “It is unrealistic to believe that all problems will be resolved by the end of the week,” he said. But he very much hoped that there was real will on both sides to participate in a process that could prevent a new armed conflict in Europe. “We hope that we can agree on how to proceed, that we can agree on a series of meetings, that we can agree on the process.”

The meeting of the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Russia and the USA ushered in a week of intensive discussions on the situation in Ukraine. A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels is planned for Wednesday and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.

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