GENEVA ( Associated Press) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Friday that a week-long standoff over Ukraine was at a “grave moment” as he held talks with his Russian counterpart amid growing concerns that Europe might be at war again. may be surrounded.
Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lowered expectations ahead of the meeting in Geneva, each in their own way, saying the talks were only a step.
With 100,000 Russian troops gathering near the Ukrainian border, many fear Moscow is preparing to invade – and the US and its allies are scrambling to present a united front if they do. Can’t or can’t coordinate response.
“We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I hope and hope that we can test whether diplomacy or dialogue remains open,” Blinken told Lavrov. moment.”
Meanwhile, Lavrov said that he “does not expect success even in these negotiations. What we expect is a concrete response to our concrete proposals.” Moscow has sought concessions from NATO on the Western Alliance’s relationship with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
Washington and its allies have repeatedly promised “serious” consequences such as cutting economic sanctions – though not military action – against Russia if an invasion escalates.
Blinken reiterated that warning on Friday. He said the US and its allies are committed to diplomacy, but are also committed to “a united, swift and serious response if this proves impossible, and Russia decides to pursue aggression against Ukraine.”
But he said he wanted to use this opportunity to share directly with Lavrov “some of the concrete ideas that you have raised, as well as to address the deep concerns that many of us have about Russia’s actions.” Huh.”
After meeting with Ukraine’s president in Kiev and top diplomats from Britain, France and Germany in Berlin this week, Blinken is facing Lavrov in a meeting that is shaping up to be a possible last attempt at a negotiated and negotiated deal. but both sides are sticking out so far-irreplaceable red lines.
On Thursday in Berlin, Blinken warned of a “sharp, severe” response from the US and its allies if an offensive is launched, and the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on four Ukrainian officials. Blinken said four were at the center of a Kremlin effort that was launched in 2020 to damage Ukraine’s ability to “act independently”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry laid out its planned agenda for the meeting on Thursday: the text of two proposals by Moscow for new treaties with both the United States and NATO on security guarantees.
Meanwhile, the State Department issued three statements – two on Russian “disinformation”, specifically on Ukraine, and another titled “Taking Action to Expose and Disrupt Russia’s Destabilization Campaign in Ukraine”.
Blinken took pains to emphasize US unity with his allies in the face of a possible Russian invasion – and tried to do so on Thursday, a day after US President Joe Biden drew widespread criticism for retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. of, will depend on the details and that a “minor intrusion” could lead to discord among the Western allies.
On Thursday, Biden cautioned that any activity by Russian forces across Ukraine’s border would constitute an invasion and that Moscow would “pay a heavy price” for such action.
“I am absolutely clear with President Putin,” Biden said. “They have no misunderstanding: any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, this is an invasion.”
Russia has denied that it is planning an invasion and instead accused the West of plotting to “incite” Ukraine on Thursday, the delivery of weapons to the country by British military transport planes in recent days. cited.
Russia wants binding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on Ukrainian membership in NATO, which Kiev aspires to, and the removal of most of the American and allied military presence in Eastern Europe.
The US and its European partners say they are ready to consider some less-dramatic gestures, but Russian demands are under question and Putin knows they are nonstarters.