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US-Russia talks start in Geneva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov and his delegation arrived under Swiss police escort at the US diplomatic mission in Geneva for face-to-face talks with Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, and her team
14:10, 10 January 2022

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There are no high expectations from the formal talks between US and Russian senior officials in Geneva at the start of a critical week of diplomacy over Ukraine as The Guardian reported.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov and his delegation arrived under Swiss police escort at the US diplomatic mission in Geneva for face-to-face talks with Wendy Sherman, the US deputy secretary of state, and her team.

Senior diplomats and military officers from the US and Russia held a working dinner in Geneva on Sunday evening before Monday’s formal negotiations to discuss Moscow’s demands. Those were set out last month in two draft treaties, one with the US and one with NATO. Much of their content is unacceptable to Washington and the alliance, most importantly a pledge that Ukraine will never be a NATO member.

Related: Exposed: Who were Russia's spies at Nato HQ?

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 a state department account of the dinner. It said she told the Russians that the US would, however “welcome genuine progress through diplomacy”.

Russia has 100,000 troops positioned near Ukraine and a similar number are primed to be mobilized at short notice, according to Blinken, who said on Sunday that the week’s diplomacy was a moment of truth for the Russian president.

“There are two paths before us. There’s a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation. The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine. We’re about to test the proposition about which path President Putin’s prepared to take,” Blinken said.

Related: US on first round of talks with Russia: "Sovereign nations free to choose their own alliances"

The Biden administration insists that sovereign states’ right to apply for NATO membership is not negotiable. Nor are US troop deployments in Europe, administration officials have stressed. They said, however, that Washington would discuss other security guarantees, such as mutual limits on missile deployments and military exercises on the continent. That would fall far short of the comprehensive changes Moscow is demanding.

Few if any diplomatic observers expect a quick deal to resolve the crisis this week, and the opposite – a complete breakdown – is possible. It should quickly become apparent whether Russia is interested in negotiating over its proposals or whether they were designed to be rejected, creating a pretext for a war that Putin has already decided on.

“We’re about to test the proposition of which path President Putin wants to take this week. And the question really now is whether President Putin will take the path of diplomacy and dialogue or seek confrontation,” Blinken told.

“Lower your expectations and then lower them some more. Watch Moscow’s demands in the meetings. If Russia insists that Nat cannot expand ever again, we will know that Moscow is preparing for war in Ukraine since this is a red line for the west,” deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council Melinda Haring said.

Related: 'Complex but businesslike': Russia on preliminary talks with US in Geneva

Sherman and Ryabkov lead teams of senior diplomats and defense officials. Sherman was accompanied to the Sunday night dinner in Geneva by Lieutenant General James Mingus, the Joint Staff director of operations, Ryabkov by Russia’s deputy defense, Colonel General Aleksandr Fomin.

France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, complained on Sunday that the EU was being excluded from the talks, an omission that he said played into Putin’s hands by dividing the west. “Europeans shouldn’t be absent from the negotiation table,” he told.

The state department account of the Sunday night dinner said the US would talk about certain bilateral issues with Russia in Geneva, “but will not discuss European security without our European allies and partners”. France and other European states will be represented at the two other rounds of talks over the course of the week.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that one of the goals of Russian President Vladimir Putin is to restore the order in the world that existed under the Soviet Union. 

"I think this is one of the goals of President Putin. And this means restoring a sphere of influence over countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union," Blinken said, answering a question about Moscow's desire to restore the world order that existed during the Soviet Union.

Blinken stressed that this is unacceptable for the United States.

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