Top US and Russian diplomats said Sunday they were not optimistic that tensions between their countries would ease at this week’s high-level dialogue in Europe. The dialogue will discuss the massive buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and Russia’s demands on the West for security guarantees.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on CNN’s “State of the Union” said it was “difficult to see any progress (in talks.red) with a gun to the head of Ukraine.” He added, “we will hear Russia’s concerns about NATO military exercises in central and eastern Europe,” but “they (Russia.red) should listen to us” regarding 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
Citing Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s RIA news agency reported that it was very likely that the US-Russian talks that were due to start Sunday evening and continue Monday in Geneva would end abruptly after one meeting. “I can’t rule anything out. This is a completely possible scenario, and America should have no illusions about this,” Ryabkov said. He added, “of course we will not make concessions under constant pressure and threats by Western countries that will be present in future talks.”
Blinken said, “I don’t think we will (soon) see a breakthrough” in US-Russian talks with other countries in Brussels and Vienna over the next week. But, he added, “ultimately it is up to President Putin. His actions (stacking troops on the border) hastened what he did not want, which was “increasing the conflict with America and its allies.”
Blinken underlined the American threat to impose very tough economic sanctions on Russia if it invaded Ukraine, eight years after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, in eastern Ukraine.
After holding talks in Geneva, Russia is scheduled to hold talks with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday (12/1) and at the Organization for European Security and Cooperation in Vienna on Thursday (13/1). [em/ka]