Monday, June 27, 2022
HomeWorldRussia downplays Ukraine invasion, but U.S. makes no concessions

Russia downplays Ukraine invasion, but U.S. makes no concessions

The United States and Russia managed a first day of security talks Monday without a breakdown that might give Moscow any basis to carry out a threatened military strike on Ukraine.

But even as Russia’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, insisted the Kremlin had no plan for another invasion of its western neighbor, it was clear that Moscow and Washington are confronting virtually unbridgeable differences on many issues — including a repeated demand by the Kremlin for hard guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia will never join NATO.

The wide gulf between the former Cold War rivals became clear as Ryabkov and his U.S. counterpart, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, held dueling news conferences at the end of the daylong negotiations, which were conducted at the U.S. Mission in Geneva.

Discussions over the threat of a Russian military incursion and demands for an array of security concessions by the West will continue on Wednesday in Brussels at NATO headquarters, and on Thursday in Vienna at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The highlight from the first round of deliberations Monday, however, was Ryabkov’s insistence that Russia was not preparing any imminent move against Ukraine, which it invaded in 2014 before annexing Crimea, and where it has backed an armed separatist uprising in the eastern region of Donbas that continues today.

“We explained to our counterparts that there were no plans or intentions to attack, quote-unquote, Ukraine,” Ryabkov told reporters. “We don’t have it, and we can’t have it.… There is no single reason to be afraid of any escalation, to be afraid of any escalatory scenario in this regard.”

But on the subject of a potential NATO expansion, Ryabkov was uncompromising, requesting “ironclad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees” that Ukraine and Georgia “will never ever” become members of the military alliance.

“This is one of the areas where we have the greatest difference of views with the U.S.,” Ryabkov said, adding of the Russian position: “That would be a welcome change for the better in the position of NATO. We are fed up with the loose talk, half-promises, misinterpretations of what happened … behind closed doors. We do not trust the other side.”


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