The United States and its European allies coordinated their position on Tuesday ahead of new NATO-Russia talks to defuse the Ukraine border crisis, as Kiev demanded an international summit.
Emissaries from Washington and Moscow held inconclusive talks in Geneva on Monday on how to avoid confrontation after Moscow deployed forces near Ukraine and demanded sweeping security concessions.
NATO will renew suspended contacts with Moscow on Wednesday in a series of talks between senior Russian diplomats and allied member states at their headquarters in Brussels.
The United States hopes diplomacy avoids what it sees as Russia’s implicit threat to launch another military incursion into Ukraine – without ceding much ground to Russian demands.
“It is too early to say whether the Russians are serious about diplomacy or not, or whether they are ready to negotiate in earnest – we are,” White House spokeswoman Jen said. Psaki.
US President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman insisted: “NATO’s relations with Ukraine are the sole responsibility of Ukraine and the 30 NATO allies, not other countries to be determined.”
But Washington’s European allies are keen not to be sidelined as President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin seeks to roll back what it sees as the West’s encroachment on its territory after the Cold War.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday reiterated his demand that France and Germany join a new international summit between Moscow and Kiev to end the conflict.
The French presidency said the Kremlin had agreed to France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to hold talks “by the end of January”.
But Ukrainian President Spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov also praised “the intention and the efforts of the United States and Russia, as well as NATO and Russia to reduce tensions and resolve any mutual issues at hand. the negotiating table “.
“We trust our partners and their statements that no decision on the fate of Ukraine will be taken behind our back,” he said in a video statement sent to AFP.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “unity” was key against what he called “Russian ultimatums”.
‘Moment of truth’
US negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, was at NATO Headquarters briefing European allies.
She briefed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on her talks in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, then met with NATO ambassadors.
“The United States is committed to working closely with our allies and partners to urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia,” she tweeted.
With Stoltenberg, Sherman “affirmed a unified NATO approach towards Russia, balancing deterrence and dialogue”, and underlined “our unwavering support for Ukraine”.
After more than seven hours of negotiations in Geneva on Monday, Russian and US officials both offered to continue talking, although there was no breakthrough.
At NATO, Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who called the meeting a “moment of truth” in Russia-NATO relations.
Moscow’s demands include a concrete guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.
Allies have long insisted that NATO membership is a matter for sovereign states to decide for themselves and are committed to preserving their open door policy.
And they threatened massive economic and financial sanctions against Moscow if its huge build-up of troops on Ukraine’s borders and in already Russian-occupied Crimea turned into yet another invasion.
But, speaking after the talks on Monday and before his return to Brussels, Grushko insisted: “Our expectations are very realistic and we hope it will be a serious and deep conversation.”
He said Russia will demand a comprehensive response from the alliance to his demands.
“We will press for a concrete, substantial, article-by-article reaction to the draft Russian agreement on guarantees,” he added.
Certain ‘non-runners’ requests
Sherman said Russia has provided no evidence it will not invade or an explanation as to why it has deployed some 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border.
She had proposed de-escalation measures, with Washington and Moscow to agree on reciprocal limits on missile batteries and exercises.
New US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told reporters the talks could include a “discussion of reciprocal exercise restrictions.”
She described the broad themes of Wednesday’s talks as “risk reduction, transparency, arms control and the various ways we communicate with each other i.e. NATO and Russia. “.
Russia has been putting intense pressure on Ukraine since 2014 after a revolution toppled a government that sided with the Kremlin against rapprochement with Europe.
Russia has seized and annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and Moscow is supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine in which more than 13,000 people have died.