Russia and the United States took a step on Monday in seeking to reduce tensions in Ukraine, in an eight-hour bilateral meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva. But at the meeting the two delegations maintained their positions without compromising. The positive thing was the attitude, which seems to feed the chance of a future understanding, especially due to the commitment to maintain the negotiations. Russia stated specifically that it does not intend to invade Russia and praised the “professionalism” of the delegations. The United States did not back down in its criticism or in the idea of ceasing to help Ukraine militarily, and called for “reciprocal actions that would be in the interests of security.”
The talk was in neutral Geneva, the same city that has so far had the only face-to-face meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. The North American delegation was led by the Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and the Russian for the Russian vice chancellor, Sergei Riabkov.
The picture that preceded the negotiations was plagued by fears about the possibility of an entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, on whose border they posted nearly 100,000 men, Moscow’s demand for concessions to the United States and Washington’s threat about the “firm answer ”that he would give if his pro-Western ally were attacked.
After the meeting, Riabkov assured that his country has no intention of attacking Ukraine and explained that the troops deployed on the borders were due to the fact that their western rivals also increased their presence. “We explained to colleagues that we have no plans or intention to attack Ukraine, in quotation marks,” Riabkov said. For the Russian official, the discussions were “difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete and without attempts to avoid conflictive issues.”
Sherman, meanwhile, reported that he had insisted to his Russian counterpart that an eventual invasion would imply “significant and enormous costs“, by the western countries and that Moscow could initiate a” de-escalation “with the simple decision that its soldiers concentrated on the border” return to their barracks. “
Riabkov seemed optimistic about his country’s demand that NATO promise not to expand and reduce its military presence in the vicinity of Russia: “We have the impression that the US side took the Russian proposals very seriously,” he said. According to the diplomat, “the situation is not hopeless”, although “the risks related to the worsening evolution of the confrontation should not be underestimated.” “Progress is required, a real gesture needs to be made towards Russia and that must come from NATO,” insisted the deputy minister, who was adamant that “never but never” Ukraine should join NATO.
The demands that Riabkov raised were also linked to the deadlines, because he demanded that the concessions to Russia be made “quickly” and judged that the negotiation process should not take “months or years.”
On the other hand, Sherman reported that the United States presented “a series of ideas that countries can adopt as reciprocal actions that would redound” to common security interests “and improve strategic stability.” And he seemed to appease the optimism of his Russian counterpart by warning that NATO’s “open door policy” will continue to be applied despite Moscow’s requests.
Russia insists that it was deceived after the Cold War and that it understood that the alliance that, led by the United States, welcomed most of the countries of the old Warsaw Pact and the three Baltic countries that were under Soviet rule: Lithuania , Latvia and Estonia.
Sherman went even further and made clear the need to add other voices to the discussions: “We are not going to renounce bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to collaborate with the United States and we are not going to make decisions on Ukraine without Ukraine; on Europe. without Europe, on NATO without NATO, “he remarked.
The US official also said that she proposed to continue these dialogues soon to go into details, especially regarding the deployment of missiles. On the point, Sherman explained that it was about the chance to reactivate the Medium-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty from which the United States withdrew in 2019 after years of accusing Moscow of non-compliance. Thus, Washington proposed to address the location of medium-range missiles and expressed its willingness to address “formulas to establish reciprocal limits on the size and scope of military maneuvers.”
This Monday’s talks in Switzerland opened a week of intense diplomacy between Russia and the West: his delegation met on Wednesday with NATO officials in Brussels and a day later in Vienna with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). ).
In the background, two Ukrainian soldiers died this Monday after an explosion in the east of the country, the Army announced. They are the first soldiers killed this year on the front line with the pro-Russian separatists.
Russia exerted strong pressure on Ukraine since 2014, after a revolution overthrew a pro-Kremlin government opposed to rapprochement with Europe. Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula – which allows its fleet an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea – and supports insurgents in eastern Ukraine who do not recognize the nationalist government and seek independence.