US-Russia talks over Ukraine ‘useful’ but no progress made | US foreign policy

Emerging from a day of negotiations in Geneva over Ukraine’s fate, US and Russian diplomats described the talks as “helpful” and “very professional” – but also emphasized that they had made no progress toward resolving fundamental differences.

The two sides largely spent eight hours of talks presenting their views on the situation in Ukraine, which is currently blocked by about 100,000 Russian troops, and on European security in general, deferring further discussion on it to a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. between Russia and all NATO members.

“We had useful discussions and exchanges today that will help us define our way forward,” Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State and leader of the delegation in Geneva, told reporters after the day of the talks.

Her Russian counterpart, Sergei Ryabkov, said: “The conversation was difficult, long, very professional, deep and tangible, without attempts to embellish or smooth out sharp corners.

Ryabkov said: “We left the impression that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and studied them in depth.”

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Sherman also noted the Russians’ willingness to negotiate, saying that they discussed “things that are not Russia’s priority.”

She said that issues of mutual restrictions on military exercises and missile deployment were discussed, but the United States ruled out, as a matter of principle, the idea of ​​ensuring Ukraine never joins NATO, stressing that the decision is the country’s sovereign right. .

“We were resolute in pushing back the security proposals that were not just the beginning for the United States,” Sherman said. We will not allow anyone to shut down NATO’s open door policy.”

While acknowledging that the talks were “not hopeless,” Ryabkov asserted that Russia had made no progress in achieving its main goals, which the Kremlin laid out in December in two proposed treaties with the United States and NATO, which included the United States’ pledge that NATO He will. They no longer accept new members like Ukraine or Georgia.

In his remarks on Monday, Ryabkov said that NATO’s pledge not to expand further, to limit the deployment of weapons in countries bordering Russia, and to roll back military activity in new NATO countries are “requirements we cannot undo.”

Ryabkov said the two sides continued to disagree on the agenda for future talks. While the United States has sought to focus on technical arms limitation issues, Ryabkov described these issues as a secondary concern compared to the thorny demand to limit NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe.

He also noted that elements of Russia’s demands, such as an effective veto over future NATO expansion, appear to be no start for the United States and its allies. Analysts said the strong demands made by Russia meant the negotiations were heading toward a dead end.

“Unfortunately, there are also other aspects of the same kind where we disagree: something absolutely necessary for us is categorically unacceptable to Americans,” Ryabkov told the press.

He warned that Russia did not want negotiations to take months or years, and insisted that Moscow would also abide by its demands for NATO to withdraw its forces and infrastructure in Eastern Europe to pre-1997 levels. The US presence on the alliance’s eastern flank was greatly enhanced after the Russian annexation of the semi-autonomous region. Crimea and the covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

“There must be a breakthrough, there must be a real step towards Russia – a step taken by NATO,” Ryabkov said. “If this doesn’t happen…we very much don’t want to have a situation where NATO countries led by the United States make this kind of mistake and act again to undermine their own security and the security of the entire European continent.”

He said both sides are looking to the upcoming NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday as a testing ground for whether Russia can reach a new arrangement with the security alliance.

Ryabkov repeated Russian assurances that Moscow was not planning to attack Ukraine. He said that all movements of Russian forces were taking place within the country’s borders, and “there is no basis for concern about an escalation in this regard.”

When informed of his remarks, Sherman responded, “They can prove that they, in fact, had no intention of [to invade] By de-escalation and returning troops to the barracks.”

Over the weekend, open source investigators identified new signs of a possible continuing Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine.

Videos posted on social networks like TikTok showed Russian armor and artillery being railed through cities along the Trans-Siberian Railway, suggesting that reinforcements could be heading toward Russia’s border with Ukraine from a distance of nearly 4,000 miles.

Those forces included main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and rocket artillery, all elements that could form new battalion tactical groups that could launch a cross-border offensive. Russia has stationed more than 50 BTGs near Ukraine, which is a significant part of the total Russian armed forces.

Sherman said Russia has a difficult choice ahead.

“If Russia veers off the diplomatic track, it may be quite clear that they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy,” she said.

The NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels on Wednesday will be followed by a session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Vienna, which will be the only one of the three diplomatic venues where Ukraine will be directly represented in talks with Russia. . European non-NATO countries will also be represented, including Finland and Sweden, which can reassess membership if Russia launches a new attack on Ukraine.

Sherman said Washington would assess diplomacy for the entire week before deciding on the future direction of the talks.

“We will have discussions with our allies and partners in the coming days and this weekend, based on those discussions, the US and Russian governments will discuss the way forward,” she said.

At the Geneva talks, Sherman reiterated the US threat to impose unprecedented sanctions in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

Ryabkov emphasized that “some threats, or at least warnings, were given to us,” but noted that they were unnecessary because Russia had no intention of launching an invasion.

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