GENEVA, Jan 10 – U.S. and Russian negotiators failed to narrow their differences in security talks in Geneva on Monday against the backdrop of Moscow’s military buildup near Ukraine, U.S. and Russian diplomats said, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“It’s just the beginning, and we don’t know where all of this is headed quite yet,” Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is leading the talks on Washington’s side, said after Monday’s round of talks concluded.
Describing the talks as “serious, straightforward, businesslike, candid discussions,” Sherman said that it remained unclear if Russia was prepared to reduce its military buildup near Ukraine following the talks—or even whether Moscow was committed to stay at the negotiating table.
“We have a long way to go,” she said.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described the talks as “difficult, long, very professional, specific, without any attempts to embellish anything, to get around any sharp corners.”
“A businesslike, professional conversation in itself sets you up for an optimistic mood,” Ryabkov added. “But the main questions are on hold and we do not see the American side’s readiness to resolve them in a way that suits us.”
Monday’s talks, and two more rounds later in the week with a broader set of European countries, take place in the backdrop of a massive buildup of Russian troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Moscow says the troop movements are a response to a threat to its own security from the West. The Kremlin has accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of trying to encroach into Russia’s backyard with military ties to Ukraine. It has demanded that NATO halt its outreach to eastern countries including Ukraine.
“It is in this area that we have the greatest friction with the United States,” Ryabkov said. “It is very important that Ukraine can never join NATO in the future. Neither Ukraine nor Georgia should become members of the North Atlantic Alliance. We need iron, legal obligations, not promises, but guarantees.”
Ryabkov said his side told the U.S. diplomats, “We have no intention to attack Ukraine. There is no reason to fear any kind of escalation scenario.”
The Biden administration is trying to defuse tensions by offering Russia negotiations on intermediate-range missiles in Europe and proposals to scale back military exercises on a reciprocal basis.
Sherman said that the U.S. had offered to meet again with Russian officials on security issues but didn’t say if Moscow had agreed to continue discussions.
“We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open-door policy,” Sherman said, adding that the two sides had a “frank and forthright discussion” about issues including military exercises and missile placement in Europe. (wsj/ez)