Russia Denies Any Ukraine Concessions, US Security Discussions

As Moscow pursues a broad additional security agreement with the West, while facing a significant push to withdraw forces, it rejected any concessions made in talks with the US on Sunday.

The high-level talks kick off a week of negotiations that will see Russia deal with NATO and the OSCE, with the US aiming to reassure allies in the region they won’t be left out.

Russia has been massing troops along the Ukrainian border since late 2017 and is demanding assurances that NATO will not advance eastward.

“We won’t make any concessions. No way,” Ryabkov remarked. “We are dissatisfied with recent signals from Washington and Brussels.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said discussions will be fruitless, as long as Russia holds a “weapon to Ukraine’s head.”

“We’re ready to confront any new Russian aggression.” Blinken stated Friday that a peaceful resolution is still feasible and preferred.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin committed to regular “stability” meetings with US counterpart Joe Biden in Geneva, led by Sherman and Ryabkov.

Huge Counterattack

Biden has warned Putin twice about the implications of an invasion.

Sanctions against Putin’s inner circle, cancellation of the disputed Nord Stream 2 project to Germany, or even disconnecting Russia’s ties to the world financial system are all on the table.

An unnamed US official cautioned if Russia attacked, Washington would deploy more soldiers to eastern NATO countries like Poland and the Baltics.

“Europe must be involved in any solution,” added EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen. After the Cold War, Russia claims it was misled and knew NATO would not grow.

However, the US-led coalition took in most erstwhile Warsaw Pact states and the three Baltic states. Russia has applied considerable pressure on Ukraine since 2014 when a revolution toppled a government opposed to greater ties with Europe.

A Russian-backed conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed over 13,000 people. While Russia is acting to support allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, Moscow says it wants development in talks with America.

Putin’s international policy aide, Yury Ushakov, said after the call that punishment would be a “grave mistake.”

Huge Bluff

Ryabkov said Sunday it is highly possible the US and NATO colleagues would be reluctant to comprehend what they all want truly.

“Despite the continual threats against us, we will not give in,” he said, adding doing so would “affect our secrecy.”

On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned a Russian invasion was still possible. Erstwhile US ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, called Putin’s military build-up a “huge bluff” to seek a negotiated settlement.

“They’re testing the Biden administration and Europe,” said Herbst, there at the Atlantic Council. 

In the short term, he believes the Biden administration will be strong enough to deter Putin from attacking Ukraine, but he does not rule out something minor. 

The Geneva discussions, noted Matthew Rojansky, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Kennan Institute, seem to be more about halting the Ukraine crisis than negotiating a substantial compromise.