Senior Russian diplomat predicted “difficult” talks with the United States this week after attending a working dinner with American officials in Geneva on Sunday as part of the launch of a series of meetings in three European cities this week , with bilateral relations at a low on the military strengthening of Russia near Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other Russian officials met for more than two hours with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, head of the US delegation, and her team at the residence of luxury of the American ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament. which overlooks Lake Geneva.
The dinner was the prelude to a larger discussion between the two teams at the U.S. mission in Geneva starting on Monday – culminating a series of both virtual and in-person meetings between U.S. officials, their Western allies and Russian leaders these last days and weeks as the tensions related to the Russian pressures against Ukraine have increased.
“We have dug into the depths of the issues ahead, but the talks are going to be difficult,” Ryabkov told reporters as he left the dinner.
âThey can’t be easy. They will be commercial. I think we won’t waste our time tomorrow.
The talks are seen as a first step towards resuming dialogue as ties have deteriorated as Russia has deployed around 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. Concerns have grown about a larger Russian military incursion into the country.
The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn up a list of demands, such as seeking guarantees that the NATO military alliance will not seek to expand further east to countries like Ukraine or Georgia, which are former Soviet republics.
“The Russian side has come here with a clear position which contains a number of elements which, in my opinion, are understandable and have been so clearly formulated, including at a high level, that it is simply not possible to deviate from our approaches, “said Ryabkov. .
When asked if Russia was ready for a compromise, he replied: âThe Americans should be prepared to reach a compromise.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that he did not expect any breakthroughs in bilateral talks in Geneva or in conversations in Brussels, at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council and the Cooperation Organization. and Security in Europe in Vienna later this week.
The United States and other Western allies have promised Russia “high costs” if it acts against Ukraine.
“The question really now is whether President Putin will take the path of diplomacy and dialogue or seek confrontation,” Blinken said, suggesting that a deeper Russian incursion into Ukraine could run counter to the interests of Moscow in the long run.
“If Russia commits further aggression against Ukraine, I think it is very likely that NATO will strengthen its positions along its eastern flank, the countries bordering on Russia,” he told ABC.
Russia was entering the talks in search of a better understanding of the US position and cited signals from Washington that some of the Russian proposals can be discussed, Ryabkov said, according to the state news agency Tass more early Sunday.
He outlined Russia’s three demands: more NATO expansion, no missiles at Russia’s borders and that NATO no longer have military exercises, intelligence operations or infrastructure. outside its 1997 borders.
US officials on Saturday expressed openness to opening talks on reducing possible future deployments of offensive missiles in Ukraine and limiting US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe – if Russia is willing to reverse Ukraine.
But they warned of tough economic sanctions for Russian intervention, including direct sanctions against Russian entities, restrictions on products exported from the United States to Russia, and products potentially manufactured abroad. subject to US jurisdiction.
Ambassador Thomas Greminger, director of the Swiss government-backed Geneva Center for Security Policy, which hosted Ryabkov for a conference in Geneva in October, said the Geneva talks were “an opportunity to express mutual concerns mutual expectations, but it would be far too early to expect any clarification, for example, regarding Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership.
“What we are seeing is a lot of posturing,” added Greminger, who is also a former head of the OSCE. “I think in the end, Putin and (US President Joe) Biden have absolutely no interest in pushing for escalation.”