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The idea that Ukraine, Russia’s neighbor, could one day join NATO “is one of the areas where we have the most differences of view with the United States,” the deputy said on Monday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, after a discussion of several hours with his United States. counterpart, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
Sherman and Ryabkov posed together at the start of the session, called to ease tensions over Russia’s positioning of around 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. But they both said the talks did not result in any breakthrough – and once the talks were over, Sherman and Ryabkov each held separate briefings with the media rather than appearing together.
“We had a frank and direct discussion for almost eight hours,” Sherman told reporters who were on a conference call.
“For us, it is absolutely obligatory to ensure that Ukraine never, ever, ever becomes a member of NATO,” Ryabkov said at a press conference after the one-day meeting in Geneva, in Swiss.
But Sherman said NATO’s open door policy is one of the alliance’s main strengths, and she said the United States “will not allow anyone” to slam that door. She also said the United States will not allow Russia to dictate how it cooperates with other sovereign states.
“We will not take decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine’s involvement,” Sherman said, adding that the same is true for the European Union. “As we say to our allies and partners: nothing about you, without you,” Sherman said.
On the Russian side, Ryabkov said the country was “fed up” with what he called gossip and half-promises.
“We don’t trust the other side,” he said. “We need foolproof, watertight, foolproof and legally binding guarantees – no assurances, no guarantees – guarantees with all the words” stating with certainty that Ukraine will never become a member of NATO . He also said that Russia did not intend to attack Ukraine.
“It is a matter of Russian national security,” he said.
Sherman reiterated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that Russia has a choice between defusing the escalation or facing deterrents, such as sanctions.
“It really is a very difficult choice and I think only Mr Putin, President Putin, can decide,” Sherman said. “And we certainly urged Russia to defuse itself, to create an environment conducive to the diplomatic channel. But we’ll see.”
Russia does not view a nation’s ability to join a military alliance as an absolute, Ryabkov said, adding that, in his country’s view, this freedom should be both limited and qualified.
“The situation is now so dangerous,” said the Russian diplomat, as he called for a swift resolution of the problem.
Sherman said the United States was ready to meet again soon. She also said the United States had raised “preliminary ideas” on a range of issues ranging from the placement of certain missile systems in Europe to a plan to set reciprocal limits on the range of military exercises and ensure the transparency of these exercises.