Moscow raises tension on Ukraine and warns Washington that it puts “European security” at risk | International

The expectations about the talks held this Monday in Geneva (Switzerland) between Washington and Moscow were not very optimistic on both sides and nothing that happened at the meeting altered the script. Russia’s military pressure on the border with Ukraine, almost eight years after the annexation of Crimea, has sparked fears in both the United States and Europe, and the meeting has not lessened tension. The Kremlin delegation promised that it does not plan to intervene in the former Soviet republic, but also warned the US Administration, in a threatening tone, not to seek a rapprochement with Russia, which means reducing NATO’s presence in eastern Europe. , is “a great mistake to the detriment of European security”, in the words of the head of the Russian delegation, Sergei Riabkov.

Joe Biden’s government appeared at the meeting with an offer to negotiate on the deployment of missiles and the scope of military exercises in Europe, in addition to warning of strong economic sanctions, which will go “far beyond” those applied for the annexation of Crimea in 2014, if Russian President Vladimir Putin launches an intervention in Ukraine. The Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, explained after the meeting that the requests made by Russia in a document weeks ago “are the opposite of starting points” and that she had made it known to her counterpart. The Kremlin demands legal guarantees that NATO will not strengthen itself on Russia’s European borders, especially Ukraine’s, and that the Atlantic Alliance also assumes “the obligation to prevent an expansion of NATO to other states. [de Europa del este, el Cáucaso o Asia central], including the accession of Ukraine ”.

The Russian diplomat made a statement in a very harsh tone. “If this does not happen [las concesiones occidentales a Moscú], then the question will be analyzed taking into account all sectors “, said Riabkov, who then launched the following reflection:” Without anticipating anything, without anticipating events, I can say that I really would not like to face a situation in which the NATO countries, led by the United States, make such a mistake and act again to the detriment of both their own security and that of the entire European continent ”.

No country, Sherman responded on Monday, “will dictate the foreign policy of another,” nor can it prohibit him from “weaving alliances.” The Undersecretary of State regretted that Russia has not taken any steps to stop the escalation of tension, a “de-escalation”, she said, which involves withdrawing “all the soldiers” concentrated on the border and returning them to “their barracks.” “We have made it clear that if Russia invades Ukraine there will be significant costs and consequences that will go beyond what they faced in 2014,” Sherman said. Penalties the United States is considering with its allies include financial sanctions, export controls for key industries, strengthening NATO positions in allied territory, and increased security support for Ukraine.

The Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, this Monday in Geneva.
The Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, this Monday in Geneva.DENIS BALIBOUSE (REUTERS)

The most positive note from the round of meetings on Monday, which lasted for eight hours, is that the diplomatic channel is not dead and that both governments want to continue talking. No European authority participated in the meeting, despite the fact that its results directly affect the Old Continent, although Washington does not stop insisting that any decision or measure related to this crisis be adopted in coordination with the European allies. The talks will continue at the multilateral level, indeed throughout the week. On Wednesday the NATO-Russia Council will meet in Brussels and on Thursday a session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is scheduled in Vienna. Even so, the Russian diplomat warned that the success or failure of the negotiations will not be a matter of months but of days.

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“Russia’s position is tough, not an ultimatum,” Riabkov added. Russia wants NATO to return to its 1997 limits and resign from members that joined later. That year, the then Secretary General, Javier Solana, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Yevgueni Primakov, signed the Founding Act of Mutual Cooperation, which allowed the expansion of NATO without conflict. This was followed by the accession of all current space to eastern Germany, including Poland, Romania and the Baltic countries.

Riabkov said there is no reason for the United States to fear an escalation around Ukraine, along whose borders Russia deployed more than 100,000 troops in the last months of last year. “We have no intention of invading Ukraine,” said the senior official.

In Kiev, they are concerned about the future after the negotiations. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wanted to “call things by name” on Twitter a few hours before the meeting. Putin demands that the United States, NATO and the European Union accept Russia’s sphere of influence over neighboring states. But the Cold War is over and with it the spheres of influence, “said the head of Ukrainian diplomacy.

Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Ukraine’s defense minister between 2019 and 2020 and currently an advisor to the president, Volodímir Zelenski, told EL PAÍS on Skype that any concession from Washington “will only make the situation worse and the red lines go further.” “It would be a big mistake to give in to Russia right now because it would be seen as a sign of America’s weakness,” said Zagorodnyuk, who also chairs the Center for Defense Strategies.

“It’s ridiculous and it doesn’t make any sense for NATO to go back to its 1997 position. The Russians are consciously making unrealistic demands. The question is what will happen next, when Europe says ‘no, we do not accept their demands,’ added Zagorodnyuk. According to the advisor to the Ukrainian president, “the war is as far or near as it was a month ago.” “Now they don’t have enough troops deployed for it. They could carry out limited operations, but to sustain an open war they need more soldiers. But if the negotiations fail to make progress, and there is a great chance of it, they will deploy more, ”warned Zagorodnyuk.

This Monday’s meeting is part of the round of talks at the Strategic Security Dialogue forum that Biden and Putin decided to launch at the summit they both held last June, also in Geneva. This open channel also addresses other issues such as nuclear weapons, but the Ukrainian crisis emerges as the most urgent problem.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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