No progress seen after Russia-US talks over Ukraine tensions

10 January 2022, 20:34

Switzerland US Russia Security Talks
Switzerland US Russia Security Talks. Picture: PA

Neither side characterised the meeting as a complete failure.

The United States and Russia locked horns over Ukraine and other security issues on Monday, with no sign of progress from either side at highly anticipated strategic talks.

Low expectations from both Washington and Moscow about the high-stakes session in Geneva appeared to have been met as senior diplomats from the two countries emerged without offering any hint of success.

Neither characterised the meeting as a complete failure, but neither did they offer any easing of the increasingly worrisome stand-off over Russia’s military build-up on its border with Ukraine that the West sees as a fundamental threat to European security.

Nor was there any indication of movement on other, perhaps less-explosive matters that have vexed the US-Russia relationship.

Switzerland US Russia Security Talks
Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (Denis Balibouse/Pool via AP)

Moscow insists on guarantees to halt Nato’s eastward expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe, while Washington firmly rejects the demands as a nonstarter.

With both sides dug in on their positions and Ukraine’s future hanging in the balance, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “no progress” was made on the central demand on Nato expansion, although he insisted: “We have no intention to invade Ukraine.”

Mr Ryabkov spoke following talks with his US counterpart, Wendy Sherman — part of a flurry of diplomatic activity in Europe this week aimed at defusing the tensions.

Ms Sherman called the talks a “frank and forthright discussion”.

“It was not what you would call a negotiation,” she told reporters. “We’re not to a point where we’re ready to set down texts and begin to go back and forth.”

“We were firm, however, on pushing back on security proposals that are simply nonstarters for the United States,” Ms Sherman said, adding “we will not allow anyone” to shut Nato’s “open-door policy” that extends to countries seeking to join the alliance.

She said Washington “will not forgo bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States. And, we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe or about Nato without Nato”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Nato expansion to Ukraine and other former Soviet states as a “red line” for Moscow, demanding binding guarantees from the West that they would not become members of the alliance.

Moscow has sought to wrest a string of concessions from the US and its Western allies, and has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in steps that have raised concerns about a possible military intervention there.

“The situation now is so dangerous, and so – I would say – precarious that we cannot afford any further delays in resolution of this very fundamental question,” Mr Ryabkov said at a separate news conference at the Russian mission.

As President Putin said, on many occasions, ‘we cannot backpedal. We cannot go backwards. There is no further space for us to do so’.”

By Press Association

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