Monday, January 24, 2022

Russia, US take tough stand ahead of further talks on Ukraine

Dasha Litvinova and Vladimir ISACHENKOV . By

MOSCOW (AP) — Moscow and Washington both took a firm stand on Tuesday ahead of more talks amid the creation of a Russian military near Ukraine, with the US rejecting calls to halt NATO expansion and the Kremlin saying it would Will quickly see if the conversation is even worthwhile.

At Monday’s talks in Geneva, Russia insisted on guarantees to halt NATO expansion in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries and called for the withdrawal of military alliance deployments in Eastern Europe. The US strongly rejected the demands as non-starters.

The US envoy in NATO took a tough stand on the next talks with Moscow, denying any concessions on the alliance’s eastward expansion. “We will not allow anyone to shut down NATO’s open-door policy,” said US Ambassador Julian Smith.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the Geneva talks as “open, comprehensive and direct”, but stressed that Moscow wants quick results. “We don’t see any significant reason for optimism,” he told reporters.

Peskov said the Russia-NATO talks in Brussels on Wednesday and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Vienna on Thursday will show whether further talks are worthwhile.

“It will become clear in which direction and how to proceed and if it makes sense,” he said. “We absolutely would not accept this process dragging on endlessly.”

“Not a single ally within the NATO coalition is willing to budge or negotiate as it pertains to NATO’s open-door policy,” Smith said.

“We are determined to push back security proposals, which are only non-starters,” he told reporters. “There is broad unity and consensus in the Coalition on the challenge we face.”

The US estimates that Russia has gathered around 100,000 troops near Ukraine, a buildup that has fueled fears of an invasion. Moscow says it has no plans to attack and has rejected Washington’s call to withdraw its forces, saying it has the right to deploy them wherever necessary.

President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow will take unspecified “military-technical measures” if the US and its allies do not meet its demands. Speaking with members of his Security Council, he said he wanted to discuss unspecified issues related to security and infrastructure in the border areas.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “too early to tell whether the Russians are serious about the path of diplomacy,” or whether they will use the talks “as an excuse to claim that diplomacy cannot possibly work”. and proceed with the attack.

Saki shrugged off the question of whether the US agrees to the Geneva talks, which does not cause more optimism. He said, however, that they included discussions about the placement of missiles in Europe and reciprocal limits on military exercises.

“There are a number of discussions that could be part of a diplomatic route, but ultimately it is up to Russia whether they are going to take a serious stand,” he said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in Geneva, later said it would be difficult to make any progress on other issues if the US and its allies halted Moscow’s demand for a guarantee that would block NATO expansion.

The US and its allies reject NATO’s demand not to accept new members, emphasizing that a key principle of the coalition is that membership is open to any eligible country and to any outsider. No veto power. But Washington and NATO also say they are ready to discuss arms control, confidence-building measures, greater transparency and risk reduction if Russia takes a constructive stance.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said she briefed the North Atlantic Council about their talks in Geneva. “The United States remains committed to working closely with our allies and partners to reduce and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia,” he tweeted.

The US has warned that Russia would face unprecedented sanctions for attacking Ukraine.

Amid tensions, the Russian military said 3,000 troops were participating in the exercises at firing ranges in the Voronezh, Belgorod, Bryansk and Smolensk regions near Ukraine.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula after ousting its Moscow-allied leader and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country’s east, where more than 14,000 people died in more than seven years of fighting. went.

A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany has largely helped end fighting, but skirmishes continue and efforts to negotiate a political settlement have failed.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky met with French and German officials in Kiev on Tuesday over the prospects of another meeting of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, saying he wanted “substantial talks on ending the conflict”. .

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dimitro Kuleba said he spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday and said Kiev and Washington “are united to reduce tensions through diplomacy and force.”


Amer Madhani and Ellen Nichmeyer in Washington and Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine contributed.

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