The US and Russia concluded high-level security talks on Monday in diplomatic efforts to ease tensions over Russian military armament on the border with Ukraine.
A breakthrough seemed unlikely with the talks ended after about seven hours, as Moscow’s threats and low expectations on both sides clouded an end to Russia’s fears of an invasion of its neighbor.
In the run-up to diplomatic activities in Europe this week, Deputy Foreign Minister Wendy Sherman held face-to-face meetings with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov at the US diplomatic mission in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ryabkov warned Sunday that talks could end after a single meeting, while US officials sounded similarly pessimistic.
Russian officials will hold further talks with representatives from NATO and Europe later this week. They come after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West was “the ball with him” to respond to a list of Kremlin demands issued last month that would significantly transform the security landscape of Europe, Washington and DC the military alliance were largely rejected.
“The US will listen to Russia’s concerns and share our own,” said Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in a tweet before the talks began early Monday. “But,” she added, “we have made it clear that we will not discuss European security without our allies and partners.”
After an informal working lunch on Sunday, Ryabkov described meeting Sherman as “difficult” but “business-like,” according to the Russian news agency Interfax. reported.
He said on Monday that it was the turn to “show flexibility,” as Russia has done for the past 30 years, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti announced.
If they fail to do so, “the situation will deteriorate in their own security sphere,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
Ryabkov also told the RIA that Russia will not deviate from its demands during the talks and instead “the American side must prepare for compromises”.
Neither President Joe Biden nor his Russian counterpart will participate directly in the talks.
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Speaking of which Ryabkov told Ria on Sunday that Russia would not make any concessions should the US exert pressure and speak to Russia “under the threat of threats”.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken also downplayed expectations that the talks could lead to real solutions.
“I don’t think we’ll see any breakthroughs next week,” Blinken said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
He warned Russia of the economic, financial and other “massive” consequences of the US and its allies if Moscow “renews its aggression”.
But Blinken also previewed some of the US plans in talks, including restrictions on troop exercises and other “confidence-building measures.”
In a separate interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Blinken said it was difficult to make progress while Russia had “a gun on Ukraine’s head”.
“So if we really want to make progress, we have to see de-escalation, Russia withdraw from the threat it currently poses to Ukraine,” added the Foreign Minister.
Russia has an estimated 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an impending invasion in Kiev and the west. Moscow has persistently denied any plans to attack its neighbor.
Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, leading to convictions and sanctions from the West. Shortly thereafter, Moscow supported a separatist rebellion in the east of the country in which fighting killed over 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
The Kremlin has demanded a number of concessions from the US and its allies, including guarantees that NATO will no longer advance east into former Soviet states such as Ukraine and that the US will scale back its military operations in the region.
The Biden administration has repeatedly threatened sanctions and other tough steps if Russia initiates new military action.
New, haunting warnings were issued on Saturday, including measures that could have an overwhelming cost to the Russian economy. reported the Associated Press, citing US officials.