US-Russia talks: Serious, Useful, Difficult, but No One Backed Down

Russia | January 11, 2022, Tuesday // 10:20|  views

After almost 8 hours of talks in Geneva on security in Europe, the US and Russian delegations made no progress, but no one expected anything more than to present their positions and clarify what could be negotiated. However, Russia immediately went on to insist that it should quickly receive an agreement to the security guarantees it demanded.

The heads of the two delegations first said in separate meetings with reporters that the meeting was useful and very professional. "We had a very useful discussion and exchange of views today, which will help us figure out how to move forward," said Wendy Sherman, the second person in the State Department after Antony Blinken.

"The conversation was difficult, long, very professional, thorough, concrete, and without attempts to embellish things and smooth out the sharp edges. We were left with the impression that the American side took Russia's proposals very seriously and studied them thoroughly," said Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The talks focused on European security in general, the possible reduction in the scale of military exercises, more transparency and negotiations on missiles located on the continent, as well as the situation around Ukraine, in particular, and the resumption of discussions was postponed to the NATO-Russia summit in Brussels on Wednesday with the participation of all countries of the alliance.

According to initial estimates, the two countries today have remained almost at their starting points and quite far from finding a compromise.

We have not been able to agree on NATO not expanding to the east, Ryabkov said, although he is aware that these are only consultations. He also demanded legal guarantees that there would be no means of attack near Russia's borders, as well as the alliance "to abandon the material assimilation of the territory of the acceding countries after 1997." These are all Eastern European countries from the former Warsaw Pact, and they are NATO. The very topic of any legal guarantees on the issue – a key aspect for Russia and one on which it cannot give in - has provoked serious objections from the United States, he added.

According to Wendy Sherman, this is a topic that has nothing to talk about, and she was greeted with a firm American stance: "We will not allow anyone to slam the door on NATO's policy of openness to future members." She reiterated that Washington's position is that it will not make any decisions for other countries without their participation.

"For us, this is absolutely necessary - to make sure that Ukraine will never become a member of NATO. We want the formula to be withdrawn from the Alliance's summit in Bucharest in 2008 (that the door is open for membership of Ukraine and Georgia when they are ready, for which they will receive a "road map") and be replaced by the following: “Ukraine and Georgia will never become members of the North Atlantic Alliance.”

We are fed up with empty talk, half-promises, misinterpretations, which often happens in closed-door negotiations. We do not trust the other side. We need reinforced concrete, legally significant guarantees, not promises, namely guarantees with the words "they are obliged" and "they are obligated to" - never to become members of NATO, RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

Ryabkov also spoke of a firm stance, saying that "those who claim that Russia has followed the path of ultimatums are absolutely wrong." According to him, Moscow does not threaten anyone with any consequences if its demands are not met and it is possible to find a balance of interests between Russia and NATO. President Vladimir Putin has said there could be "a variety of" answers in the event of a refusal of Russian demands.

The deputy minister also said that Russia is focused on diplomacy and does not want to discuss what military-technical measures it can respond to if negotiations fail. We are not discussing a new Putin-Biden phone call and there is no deadline for the talks, but we are not talking about weeks or months, Reuters quoted him as saying. I will not talk about details while we are negotiating, but we expect a quick response from the United States and NATO, he added.

"If Russia leaves the diplomatic process, it will become quite obvious that they have never seriously bet on diplomacy. And I said this very clearly to Deputy Minister Ryabkov - Russia is facing a very clear choice that it must make and Vladimir Putin must do it personally," Sherman said.

A little later, the White House said it was prepared if Russia starts spreading misinformation about US commitments.


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Tags: Russia, US, talks, Wendy Sherman, Sergei Ryabkov


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