GENEVA (AP) – Senior US and Russian officials formally began special talks on strategic stability on Monday. The talks were part of a series of diplomatic contacts in Europe planned this week to defuse tensions over the mobilization of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine, although no immediate progress was expected.
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Ryabkov, and his delegation arrived escorted by the Swiss police to the face-to-face meeting with Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State, and her team. The meeting was part of the “Strategic Security Dialogue” talks undertaken by Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin during a June summit in the Swiss city.
After an informal business dinner on Sunday, Ryabkov predicted “difficult” talks in Geneva that would be followed on Wednesday by a meeting between NATO and Russia in Brussels and a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, scheduled to Thursday in Vienna.
Moscow has tried to claim a series of concessions from the United States and its Western allies, as guarantees that NATO will not expand further east to former Soviet states like Ukraine. Russia is estimated to have mobilized some 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, raising fears of possible military intervention.
During Sunday’s dinner, Sherman “stressed the United States’ commitment to the international principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price, in a reference. to Ukraine and its aspirations to join NATO. Many analysts say that such incorporation of Ukraine would occur within several years at the earliest.
The United States has downplayed prospects for significant progress this week, saying that some demands from Russia, such as a possible freeze on NATO expansion, run counter to the sovereign right of countries to close their own security deals. and therefore they are not negotiable.
But US officials have been open to other ideas such as restricting future offensive missile deployments in Ukraine and limiting US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe, if Russia is willing to back down in Ukraine.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.