Russia downplays threat to Ukraine after meeting with the US

Russian officials said they had told US diplomats during nearly eight hours of talks that Russia had no plans to invade Ukraine.creditCredit…Denis Balibouse / Reuters

GENEVA – As Russian troops gather along the Ukrainian borders, American and Russian diplomats made it clear on Monday after an intense round of negotiations that the two sides would continue to talk, but are far from reaching an agreement on mutual security concerns .

Russian officials told their American counterparts that they had no plans to invade Ukraine in a series of talks that lasted nearly eight hours. “There is no reason to fear an escalation scenario,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov told reporters after the meeting.

“The discussions were difficult, long, very professional, profound, concrete, without trying to gloss over some sharp edges,” said Ryabkov. “We had the feeling that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and carefully studied them.”

Wendy Sherman, the leading American diplomat, said the United States would “roll back security proposals that the United States simply do not see as a cause,” including calls by Russia not to accept Ukraine into NATO and the Alliance to end its security cooperation with the United States Ukraine.

“We will not allow anyone to slam NATO’s open door policy, which has always been the focus of the NATO alliance,” Sherman said on a conference call with reporters. “We will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that want to work with the United States. And we will not make any decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe or about NATO without NATO. “

Both sides dampened any expectations of a diplomatic breakthrough.

“Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities,” said Ms. Sherman. “That wasn’t what we would call a negotiation.”

The tone of the talks “makes one even more optimistic,” said Ryabkov, “but the most important questions are still up in the air and we see no understanding from the American side of the need to make a decision in some way.” that satisfies us. “

Ms. Sherman said both sides were discussing the possibility of reviving the medium-range nuclear missile treaty, which the United States abandoned in 2019 after years of accusing Russia of violating its terms.

The American side had expressed ideas about where US and Russian medium-range missiles were located, and the United States was open to discussions “how we can limit and improve each other’s scope and scope”. Transparency about these exercises. “

The talks – the first in a series of discussions to take place across Europe this week – revolved around the demands for “security guarantees” from Western powers made by the Kremlin in a remarkable diplomatic offensive late last year.

In December, Russia released a proposal for two agreements with the United States and NATO that would cut back Western military activity in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and essentially restore a Russian sphere of influence in the former parts of the Soviet Union.

Many of the proposals, Ms. Sherman noted, do not prompt Western officials who insist that Cold War-style regions of influence are a relic of the past and that countries should be able to choose their own alliances.

“We didn’t go there and didn’t go through the contract they put on the table,” Ms. Sherman said.

Russia insists that its demands go well beyond arms control and include a major redesign of the security map in Europe, which the Kremlin claims the West imposed on a weak Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If Russia doesn’t get what it wants, President Vladimir V. Putin said last month, the Kremlin would be ready to resort to military means to achieve its goals.

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