US rejects Russia demand on Ukraine but talks see new life

In the United States (AFP)- It rejected Russia’s primary demand to exclude Ukraine from NATO and stated that it felt Moscow was prepared to invade, but it provided a fresh “diplomatic pathway” out of the situation on Wednesday.

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said he would speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again in the coming days after meeting with him in Geneva on Friday. A separate initiative by France resulted in a promise by Moscow to at the very least continue discussions with the Ukrainian government.

One month after Russia unveiled comprehensive security recommendations and sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine’s border, the United States gave a response in conjunction with NATO allies, declaring that it was prepared for any eventuality that might arise in the future.

When asked about the US reaction, Blinken said, “It lays out a serious diplomatic way forward, should Russia choose to take it.” Blinken stated the details of the response would stay classified.

A new offer on “reciprocal” measures to resolve mutual security concerns, including reductions in missiles in Europe, greater transparency in military manoeuvres, and Western assistance to Ukraine, was made by President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

However, he made it plain that the United States will not move on Russia’s fundamental demand that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, the military alliance backed by the United States.

According to Blinken, “From our standpoint, I cannot be more explicit — NATO’s door is open, and the door will remain open as long as we are committed to doing so.”

According to official figures, Russia, which has had a tense historical relationship with Ukraine, has fostered an insurgency in the former Soviet republic’s eastern regions that has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people since 2014, according to official figures.

This was also the year in which Russia annexed Crimea, following the fall of a government in Kiev that had rejected efforts by the country to draw closer to Europe.

The United States has warned that if Russia invades, there would be severe and quick repercussions, including possibly personal penalties against President Vladimir Putin, and NATO has deployed 8,500 troops to prepare for the invasion.

As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg put it, “While we are hoping for and working toward a peaceful solution—de-escalation—we are also preparing for the worst.”

Wendy Sherman, Blinker’s assistant and the leader of a previous round of negotiations with Russia, said Putin appeared ready to invade despite the United States’ warnings.

According to Sherman, “I have no clue whether or not he has made the final decision, but we clearly have every indication that he is going to employ military force sometime (probably) (between) now and the middle of February.”

She speculated that Putin may be holding off so as not to overshadow the commencement of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4, which the Russian leader will attend despite a diplomatic boycott by the United States and some of its allies, according to her.

French-led talks 

To further alleviate tensions, top Russian and Ukrainian officials met for eight hours with representatives from the governments of France and Germany in Paris on Tuesday, November 13.

Dmitry Kozak, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff, acknowledged that the negotiations had been “difficult,” but stated that another session would take place in Berlin in two weeks.

After the so-called Normandy Format talks, France announced that the envoys had agreed to a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Moscow separatists that would take effect in July 2020.

“We require a brief intermission to supplement our existing pause. We anticipate that the outcomes of this approach will be available in two weeks, “Kozak shared his thoughts.

Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff described the talks as “tough,” but he told reporters that “within the existing conditions, we obtained a positive signal.”

Russia has been warned against an invasion by France and Germany, but they have been less blunt in their calls for penalties on the Russian government.

Germany’s new coalition government has given conflicting signals on whether it will cut off the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which will bypass Ukraine and supply gas to the country with the greatest economy in Europe.

In a video conference with European leaders on Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden said any Russian military attack on Ukraine would have “enormous ramifications” and could “transform the world. “Biden also expressed concern about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Russian attack on Europe.

While downplaying the significance of the incident, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pskov cautioned that any attempt to punish Putin personally would be “destructive.”

Ukraine seeks way out 

It has been suggested that an invasion of Ukraine is imminent, and the United States has once again urged its nationals to evacuate Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the Ukrainian government, in an attempt to prevent fear from spreading and to defuse a potentially existential crisis, has downplayed the threats and attempted to propose solutions.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kaleb, the Russian troops constitute “a threat to Ukraine.” However, he added, the number of troops on the ground was “insufficient for a full-scale invasion.”

According to Andriy Yermic, an adviser to President Volodymyr Belinsky who participated in the Paris discussions, the meeting was “a significant signal of preparedness for a peaceful settlement,” as he said on Twitter.

In an early step toward de-escalation that had been anticipated by France, the Ukrainian government withdrew a bill from parliament this week that governed the status of Russian-backed separatist provinces in the country’s eastern region, which Moscow considered to be in violation of previous commitments.

Russia, France, and other countries are hopeful that humanitarian gestures such as prisoner exchanges in eastern Ukraine and the opening of checkpoints staffed by rebels will be reciprocated in kind by the Russian government.

However, Zaleski has remained staunch in his opposition to another French proposal for direct talks between Ukraine’s government and the separatists backed by Russia.