High-stakes talks come amid deteriorating Washington-Moscow relations
Russian and American diplomats are engaged in a wave of strategic stability talks on the European continent, with Moscow and Washington both sending delegations for talks at the US mission to the United Nations office in Geneva.
The main round of talks began on Monday morning, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin speaking with First Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. The envoys had preliminary talks over a working dinner the night before, with Ryabkov describing the conversations as difficult but pragmatic.
What’s on the program?
The negotiations were announced after Moscow released two draft treaties in December, which it said are designed to reduce the risk of hostilities with the West. Russia is seeking written guarantees that NATO will not expand further east and that previous promises to eventually admit the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia into the bloc will be rescinded.
In addition, the proposed agreements require NATO to limit its forces to the territory of nations that were members before 1997, effectively banning its troops and materiel from former Warsaw Pact countries, including Poland and the Baltic states. . Another article calls on the two sides not to deploy intermediate and short-range ground missiles near their respective territories.
Russia says military action in Ukraine highly likely
In addition to pledging that the ambitions of Ukrainian elites to join the bloc would not materialize, the draft Moscow treaty would also bar NATO troops from any joint military activity in the country, as well as in other areas. other states in Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia and Central Asia.
Why is Russia asking for concessions?
Tensions have risen in recent months amid a string of claims that Russia may be planning a full military invasion of Ukraine. Washington has warned that any aggression will result in a series of punitive measures, with US Vice President Kamala Harris saying the White House is “Prepared to impose sanctions like you’ve never seen before. “
Russia denies planning such an offensive and insists that the presence of troops and materiel near the border is not the harbinger of full-scale conflict. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced allegations that “hysteria” and say that “The movement of our armed forces on our own territory should not worry anyone. “
President Vladimir Putin used his annual year-end press conference to accuse NATO of lying by giving assurances in the 1990s that it would not expand “an inch east.” He said promises made to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev were not kept, with Putin arguing that “They deceived us. With vehemence. Blatantly. NATO is growing.
For this reason, Putin said, written assurances are needed. Even then, he said, a signed deal could still be torn apart by Washington unilaterally. “You and I both know very well: under various pretexts, including in order to ensure their own security, that they are acting thousands of kilometers from their national territory”, Putin supported. “When international law and the Charter of the United Nations interfere, they declare it all obsolete and unnecessary. “
Will the talks be successful?
The immediate reaction to Russia’s proposals in the West has been overwhelmingly negative, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisting that the bloc does not “We find ourselves in a situation where we have second-class NATO members where NATO as an alliance is not allowed to protect them. “
“The risk of conflict is real. Russia’s aggressive actions seriously undermine the security order in Europe ”, he claimed.
Stoltenberg also dismisses Putin’s insistence that the bloc had ignored previous promises, saying there had never been any promises not to expand. “We cannot question NATO’s right to protect and defend all of its allies, nor the basic principle that every nation has the right to choose its own path,” he added. he said.
However, the US side agreed to meet to discuss Moscow’s draft treaties, and the EU urged Washington to involve it in any decision-making regarding the future of European security.
Many analysts have argued that Russia’s demands would almost certainly be rejected by the West in their current form, and that the talks could lead to concessions on both sides. Stoltenberg said that “We are ready to listen to Russia’s concerns, but we also expect Russia to heed our concerns.”
Moscow delegates, however, warned that they would not dilute their demands during the talks. “The American side must prepare for compromises”, Ryabkov said Monday. “The Russian side has come here with a clear position, with clear and understandable wording… so there simply cannot be any deviation from our current approach.”
After the talks, both sides are expected to address the media on Monday evening. Extensive discussions will then take place with NATO and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).