US and Russia agree to negotiate amid rising tensions over Ukraine

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Tuesday said talks with Russia over tensions over Ukraine and a range of other issues will open on January 10, in which US officials hope will mark the slow transition from a possible military confrontation on Ukraine’s eastern border to a diplomatic resumption.

The announcement came shortly after Russia announced that 10,000 combat troops and special forces conducting exercises had returned to their barracks. But that move comes at some distance from Ukraine, and it’s unclear if the decision is part of the intense behind-the-scenes discussions underway to get Russia to withdraw tens of thousands of troops there. border before starting serious diplomacy or not.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said last week at the Council on Foreign Relations that “meaningful progress on the negotiating table will, of course, have to happen in a context of de-escalation. ladder, not escalator”.

But the threat of a possible invasion of Ukraine is an important lever for Moscow, and Russian officials say the January 10 talks should focus on the country’s proposed “treaty”. they demanded that NATO never give Ukraine membership or place its forces or weapons before. The countries of the Soviet Union.

Several countries are already NATO members.

In a statement, the National Security Council did not say where the meeting would take place, but the most likely venue was Geneva, where previous rounds of nuclear weapons talks were held. It also did not say who would lead the delegation. The nuclear negotiations were led by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Wendy Sherman, and her Russian equivalent, Sergei Ryabkov.

The National Security Council said that “Biden’s approach on Ukraine is clear and consistent: Unite the coalition behind two lines, deterrence and diplomacy.”

The deterrent side of this equation includes arming Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles and other weapons. It also involves pushing Europe and other allies to agree in advance on a series of economic sanctions if Russia sends troops across the border to capture parts of Ukraine beyond Crimea, which it annexed. year 2014.

But the United States and its allies are also “agreed in our readiness to engage in principled foreign policy with Russia,” the White House said, adding that “when we sit down to talk Russia can raise its concerns, and we will also place our concerns on Russian activities.”

American diplomats are struggling to understand whether the diplomatic initiative to begin next month is a serious attempt by Russia to push NATO forces away from its borders and end military aid to Ukraine is a measure intended to justify military action. Intelligence officials say they believe Russian President Putin has yet to decide whether to invade Ukraine, but they worry that he may reluctantly appear as if he is backing down if he begins to pull in troops in numbers. big.

Many US officials speculate that Putin’s ultimate goal is to destabilize the Ukrainian government and put in place a leader who refuses to turn to the West. That strategy has worked in Belarus, where President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, has grown closer to Putin and pledged to participate in more and more joint military exercises.

Mr. Putin made it clear in an interview that aired Sunday that he does not intend to rule out his military options. He rejected Mr. Biden’s oath that the sanctions under consideration would be far more severe than any sanctions the United States and its allies have imposed on Russia.

Mr Putin said he would consider “diverse” options if the West refused to meet his demands. “It will depend on what proposals our military experts send me,” he said.

However, Putin has options that do not involve the troop transfer, including using cyberweapons to cut off part of the electricity grid in Ukraine, which is connected to the Russian grid. Two such attacks, in 2015 and 2016, crippled parts of Ukraine, as well as The NotPetya Attack of 2017 shutting down banks, shops and media organizations. It is considered one of the most expensive cyberattacks in modern history.

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