Russia and the United States’ top negotiators are having critical discussions on Friday.
A weeks-long impasse over Ukraine hovers on the brink of a key and potentially deadly phase amid growing fears that Europe may be ravaged by war once again.
At the same time, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet in Geneva to discuss averting a possible Russian incursion into Ukraine.
Resolutions Would Take Time
Blinken downplayed the chance of an immediate settlement at Geneva meetings, saying overcoming the challenging problems “would take time.” Blinken also added that he did not expect a conclusion on Friday.
Washington and its partners have repeatedly threatened Russia with “severe” repercussions.
These repercussions include crippling economic penalties, but not military action if an incursion by 100,000 Russian soldiers stationed near the Ukrainian frontier for weeks goes forward.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the commitment to keeping the path of diplomacy open as he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva https://t.co/Air2NZdPiJ
— Forbes (@Forbes) January 21, 2022
After meeting with Ukraine’s president in Kyiv and senior British, French, and German envoys in Berlin this week, Blinken met with Lavrov. The meeting was formed up as a potential last-ditch attempt at discussion and a negotiated consensus.
Blinken threatened Thursday in Berlin a “rapid, severe” retaliation from the US and its allies in the event of an invasion, as the US Treasury Department imposed additional sanctions on four Ukrainian officials.
Blinken stated the four were at the epicenter of a Kremlin campaign launched in 2020 to undermine Ukraine’s capacity to “operate autonomously.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the US is committed to a "united, swift and severe response" if Moscow commits further aggression against Ukraine https://t.co/L7UTByTYzt
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 21, 2022
The Russian Foreign Ministry put out the meeting’s agenda on Thursday, including the contents of two Moscow-sponsored proposals for new security treaties with the US and NATO.
Conversely, the State Department issued three comments: two on Russian “false news,” one on Ukraine explicitly, and another headlined, “Taking Action to Uncover and Counter Russia’s Destabilization Operation in Ukraine.”
Blinken made a point of emphasizing the United States’ solidarity with its allies in objection to a possible Russian occupation — and attempted to do so Thursday.
This came a day after Biden managed to draw intense condemnation for saying retribution for the Russian invasion in Ukraine would rely heavily on the specifics. A “minor invasion” could spark discord between many Western allies.
On Thursday, Biden warned that any Russian force that advances beyond Ukraine’s border would entail an invasion, for which Moscow would “pay a high price.”
Russia has rejected any invasion plans and instead charged the West with orchestrating “provocative actions” in Ukraine on Thursday, citing the recent supply of weaponry to the nation by British military cargo planes.
Russia pursues lawfully required security guarantees, including an endless veto on Ukraine’s accession to NATO, which Kyiv wants, and the elimination of the majority of US and ally troop involvement in eastern Europe.
The US and its European allies indicated they are prepared to accept certain less dramatic actions. The Russian requests are off the table and Putin is well aware of their impossibility.