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Mine yours does not understand or does not want to understand: how the talks between Russia and the United States ended in Geneva

On January 10, in Geneva, negotiations were held between representatives of Russia and the United States on the security guarantees that Moscow is seeking from NATO. Russia wants the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon expansion to the east, but Washington refuses to discuss the fate and aspirations of Ukraine and other countries without their participation, reports BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

The meeting was initiated by Russia, the negotiations were held in a closed format and lasted almost eight hours.

The meeting was preceded by a sharp escalation in the rhetoric of both sides: the administration of President Joe Biden accused Moscow of planning a new invasion of Ukraine, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin threatened to use "military-technical measures" to defend his country.

On the eve of the talks, representatives of the US State Department accused Putin of plans to recreate the Soviet Union, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister demanded that NATO "collect money" and return to the situation before 1997, and the United States will have to "get used to the new situation, adapt and back up, otherwise it will suffer their safety. "

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The talks in Geneva are the first of three scheduled for this week: the NATO-Russia Council will be held in Brussels on January 12, and strategic security issues will be discussed in the OSCE on January 13 in Vienna.

The difference in approaches

The American delegation views the January 10 talks as an extraordinary session of the dialogue on strategic stability - a process that the presidents of Russia and the United States agreed on last year. Within its framework, two meetings have already taken place.

This explains the fact that the meeting was held at the American Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, and not on neutral territory.

However, Moscow sees the meeting also as a discussion of the Kremlin's December-proposed treaty on mutual security guarantees. The draft agreements - between Russia and the United States and between Russia and NATO - were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry a few days after they were handed over to Western diplomats.

The American delegation expected Russian representatives to manipulate the information field after the meeting, as two senior US State Department officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to comment publicly on the negotiations.

“We expect that the public statements that the Russian side will make following the meeting on January 10 will not reflect the true nature of the discussions. We urge our allies and partners to take Russia's comments with extreme skepticism and continue their ongoing discussions and coordination with the United States, ”US diplomats said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who headed the Russian delegation, described the conversation as difficult, deep, specific and professional. In his opinion, the situation is not hopeless and there is a basis for reaching agreements on security guarantees.

US First Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who represented the American delegation, said that not negotiations were held in Geneva, but discussions to clarify the positions of the parties. She also called the conversation open and direct, noting that so far the parties are trying to understand each other.

Both Ryabkov and Sherman once again outlined the positions of the parties at the briefings following the meeting. Ryabkov has once again stated that Russia is categorically opposed to NATO's eastward expansion. “We emphasize that it is absolutely imperative for us to make sure that Ukraine will never become a NATO member,” he said.

Ryabkov noted that Russia does not trust NATO and demands "reinforced concrete, legally significant guarantees" that neither Ukraine nor Georgia will be accepted into NATO.

“The United States of America declares that neither Russia nor any other state should have any objections on such issues. We emphasize that this is a matter of utmost importance for us, it is very important that Ukraine never in the future can join NATO. We would like the formula adopted by the 2008 Bucharest summit to be withdrawn at the NATO Madrid summit. Neither Ukraine nor Georgia should become members of the North Atlantic Alliance, ”he said.

“The countries I spoke about should not become NATO members, this is a matter of Russia's national security,” he repeated.

Sherman, on the other hand, stressed that the United States is not ready to negotiate the future of Ukraine without the participation of Ukraine itself and that Washington will not allow anyone to close the door to NATO for another country.

“We will not allow anyone to contradict NATO's open door policy, which has always been central to the Alliance. We will not give up bilateral cooperation with sovereign states wishing to cooperate with the United States, ”she said.

Sherman also once again raised the issue of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and noted that if Moscow wants to prove that it is not going to do this, it must take measures to de-escalate the situation. She called these measures the key to the success of any negotiations.

Ryabkov, for his part, said that Russia does not intend to invade anywhere - and, accordingly, there is no subject for discussion here.

Sherman said she doesn't think we know the answer to the question of whether Russia is ready to de-escalate. According to her, Russia can prove that they do not intend to invade by returning troops to the barracks, "or tell us what exercises are going on and what their purpose is."

Wendy Sherman told reporters after talks with a Russian delegation that serious financial sanctions are planned in the event of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine, but did not elaborate on which ones. She also said that if Russia attacks Ukraine, additional security assistance will be provided to Ukraine, and not only the United States will do this.

“We are not threatening anyone, while the United States says it will wait for Russia if it does or does not do something. These are attempts at blackmail, ”Ryabkov said in turn.

At the same time, both Ryabkov and Sherman agreed that much depends on the meeting of the Russia-NATO Council, which will take place on January 12.

What experts say in the USA

The Geneva meeting highlighted the chasm between the two countries' positions, said Michael Kofman, director of the Russian program at the US Center for Naval Analysis.

According to him, the United States is trying to defuse the situation through discussions on arms control and military exercises, but Russia is ready to be satisfied with only legal guarantees of refusal to expand NATO and to admit Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. However, Washington is not ready to conduct such negotiations.

“Although Ryabkov said the situation was not hopeless, it was clear from his position that progress on issues such as arms control and de-escalation of military activity would not resolve this crisis unless Russia saw a willingness to negotiate legal guarantees on NATO enlargement and its cooperation with countries such as Ukraine and Georgia. - said the expert. "This is a stumbling block."

Progress will be possible only in one of two cases - either Russia will abandon maximalist demands, or the United States will be ready to satisfy some of them, even if not in the form that Moscow represents, according to Samuel Sharap, a researcher at the RAND corporation and a former State Department official. ...

“Today there has been no real progress in the negotiations, but things could have turned out much worse. The delegations did not come out with the words that they were returning home and preparing for war. They said they would continue the dialogue. But there is no sign of real rapprochement on key issues, ”Sharap said.

According to him, the rapprochement of the positions of the parties looks extremely unlikely, but the United States should try to resolve the contradictions through diplomatic means, because the alternative to it is much worse.

Experts do not expect any breakthroughs from the Russia-NATO Council meeting on January 12, on which Ryabkov and Sherman pinned certain hopes in their speeches.

“Real diplomacy is much more difficult to conduct in a multilateral context. It will be a miracle if some kind of agreement is reached at the meeting in Brussels - however, it would be a miracle if an agreement appeared today, ”Sharap said.

What experts say in Russia

Russian experts note that they did not expect any fateful decisions from the meeting. Andrei Baklitsky, senior researcher at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, notes that Sherman is the Deputy Secretary of State and does not have the authority to make decisions, including in relation to NATO.

According to Baklitsky, it was important for Russia to understand that its demands and conditions are taken seriously by Washington and to demonstrate that the status quo in Europe is considered unacceptable in Moscow and does not correspond to the understanding of its national interests and security.

“Moscow interprets the current situation as unstable and even explosive, and therefore it will not be possible to do with cosmetic measures. If the United States agrees that the situation cannot continue to remain so, then dialogue is possible, ”the expert notes.

Baklitsky notes that the next negotiations will take place in Brussels, where another Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Alexander Grushko is flying, and not from the United States, but from NATO.

“I think this is not the most comfortable option for Moscow - it would be preferable to come to an agreement with the United States directly, but the Americans, at least publicly, declare that they cannot discuss NATO-related issues on a bilateral basis,” he says.

The fate of Ukraine and the countries of Eastern Europe

Among the demands of Russia is not only a refusal to expand NATO to the east, including into the territory of Ukraine, but also a ban on additional troops in the countries that joined the alliance after 1997 - these are 14 states of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states. ...

However, Washington has consistently stated that it is not ready to discuss the fate of Ukraine and other countries without their participation, American diplomats emphasize.

“We are not going to do something over the heads of our European allies and partners. We have said many times, and I want to say again that we are committed to the principle of “no talking about you without you” when it comes to our allies and partners, including Ukraine, ”said the US representative.

“It is obvious that Ukraine is an important part of these negotiations. But on Monday we are considering issues that are of a bilateral nature. We will continue to discuss issues on the topic of Ukraine throughout the week, whether in Geneva or Brussels, ”State Department officials said ahead of the January 10 meeting.

The Biden administration regularly emphasizes that some of Russia's proposals can be discussed, while others are deliberately unacceptable.

“President Biden has made it clear that we can make progress on some issues, but not all. Russia is well aware of our position. It is based on the fundamental principles of European security that we once agreed on. One of these principles is that the borders of countries cannot be changed by force, ”the American diplomat added.

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Russia is also demanding that the United States withdraw a number of weapons and military units from the territory of Eastern Europe, including the missile defense system (US missile defense).

Ahead of the meeting, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that she could lay the foundation for the restoration of the INF Treaty, the 1987 treaty on the elimination of intermediate and shorter-range missiles signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The Donald Trump administration has decided to withdraw from this agreement in 2019.

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