Geneva – AFP
Russia on Sunday ruled out offering “any concessions” before the start of talks in Geneva with the United States in an attempt to defuse the explosive crisis over Ukraine, as well as seeking to bridge seemingly impossible views to reconcile on security in Europe.
“We will not accept any concessions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is participating in the negotiations, told Russian news agencies. It is completely improbable. “
“We were disappointed by the signals emitted in recent days by Washington and Brussels as well,” he said.
The very sensitive diplomatic week begins with a bilateral meeting between the two deputy foreign ministers, the American Wendy Sherman and the Russian Sergei Ryabkov.
And then continues with a meeting between NATO and Russia Wednesday in Brussels, then with a meeting Thursday in Vienna with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in order to engage Europeans who fear their marginalization.
A White House official said the Russians and Americans “will likely have preliminary talks on Sunday evening, before having the main meeting on Monday” in Switzerland.
Western countries, as well as Kiev, accuse Russia of having massed around 100,000 troops on the borders of Ukraine with a view to a possible invasion. And threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with “huge” and unprecedented sanctions if he attacked his neighbor.
These measures may amount to preventing Russia from dealing with the global financial system or preventing the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which Moscow so strongly wants.
Western countries want from this position to prove that they are more resolute and determined than in 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukrainian Crimea without the American-European alliance succeeding in reversing.
President Putin, who has met twice with his American counterpart Joe Biden since the onset of this new crisis, considered that imposing new sanctions would be a “fatal mistake” and, in turn, threatened to a “military and technical response if his opponents continued this hostile approach.”
He succeeded in forcing the widening of the dialogue to his conditions and demands, which the West sees as red lines.
The Kremlin claims the West is provoking Russia by deploying military forces at its borders or by arming the Ukrainian army, which is fighting pro-Russian separatists in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.
He calls for a broad agreement to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for the withdrawal of all US forces from countries on the far eastern side of NATO’s borders. However, the Americans assert that they are not ready to reduce the number of their forces in Poland or in the Baltic countries, on the contrary they threaten to reinforce their presence there in the event of Russian attack.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday that there is a “real danger of a new conflict”, noting that Moscow is proposing “unacceptable” terms and stepping up threats if they are not accepted.
For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said: “It is part of their strategy to present an unacceptable list of demands and then to pretend that the second part is not in the game and use it as justification. to launch an assault ”.
But he stressed that the United States “will not be distracted by the discussion on NATO”, demanded by Putin, because “the subject of the hour is aggression against Ukraine”.
Europe wants to participate
The US Secretary of State stressed that “it is very difficult to make real progress with a gun pointed at Ukraine’s head”, but he reached out to Russia, stressing that a “diplomatic solution is still possible “if she wishes.
For John Hurst, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Russia’s military deployment is Putin’s “grand scheme” to obtain concessions.
“As long as the Biden administration maintains its current assertion, that will be enough to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, but I would not rule out a more limited operation,” adds the expert from the Atlantic Council.
In addition to the Ukraine crisis, Washington hopes to take advantage of these talks to restore US-Russian relations, which had fallen to their lowest level since the Cold War, on a more stable path, as well as its hope of making progress on other issues. such as disarmament.
However, there have been many calls from Paris to Berlin via Brussels to effectively involve the European countries in the discussions, in particular the European Union, facing the Kremlin, which seems to prefer a bilateral Russian-American meeting.
These talks are a test for the Biden administration which, despite its promises of coordination, has provoked the disappointment of its European allies because of its uniqueness in Afghanistan or its strategy vis-à-vis China.
But Anthony Blinken said: “There would be nothing of Europe without Europe.