Russia insists it has NO plans to invade Ukraine with 100,000 troops at the border and U.S. calls Moscow’s demands ‘non-starters’ on first day of crunch talks
- Russia and the U.S. met for security talks in Geneva on Monday
- US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russia told her they do not intend to invade Ukraine, and that the build-up was ‘typical maneuvering
- Moscow has moved 100,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border
- Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov again insisted that NATO block Ukraine from joining the alliance
- ‘We have a great disparity in our principled approaches to this,’ he said
Russia and the U.S. indicated they remained a long way apart after the first day of crunch security talks on Monday when the Russian negotiator insisted Moscow had no plan to invade Ukraine and his American counterpart dismissed his demands as ‘non-starters.’
Russia has deployed 100,000 troops and heavy weapons near Ukraine’s border while demanding that NATO rules out admitting the former Soviet state or advancing into what it sees as its backyard.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russia told her they do not intend to invade Ukraine, and that the build-up was ‘typical maneuvering.’
‘We were firm … in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters to the United States,’ she told reporters in Geneva after seven hours of talks..
‘We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open door policy.’
Ukraine has sought membership ever since Russia annexed its territory in Crimea in 2014.
On a conference call with reporters, Sherman added that Russia could prove it had no intention of invade by returning troops to their barracks.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, left, and Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov held seven hours of security talks at the U.S. mission in Geneva, Switzerland
After the talks, Sherman said Russia told her they do not intend to invade Ukraine, and that the build-up was ‘typical maneuvering.’ She asked them to prove it by sending the troops home
More than 1,200 servicemen and 250 pieces of equipment were involved in Russian drills at Opuk military training ground in Crimea, on December 21-24
However, the American side has indicated it is open to other ideas, such as limiting U.S. exercises in Eastern Europe and the deployment of missiles in Ukraine if Moscow backs down.
Kyiv and its allies in Washington fear the 100,000 troops are preparing to invade, eight years after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula.
For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov set out Moscow’s demands, including that the NATO alliance end its activity in central and eastern European counties that joined after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
‘We have no intention to invade Ukraine,’ he said.
And he warned that Russia would respond in a ‘military-technical’ way if talks broke down, in what analysts said was likely a threat to redeploy intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe.
‘Unfortunately we have a great disparity in our principled approaches to this. The U.S. and Russia in some ways have opposite views on what needs to be done, he said.
The escalation has raised tensions between Moscow and Washington to their highest levels since the Cold War.
Monday’s talks will be followed by a Russia-NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, before talks in Vienna of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
US President Joe Biden twice discussed the Russian troop buildup with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, warning that Moscow would face ‘severe consequences,’ including unprecedented economic and financial sanctions, if it attacked its neighbour.
Before the talks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Putin of ‘gaslighting’ the world with accusations that Ukraine was the aggressor.
‘No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident then tries to use it to justify military intervention hoping that by the time the world realizes the ruse, it’ll be too late,’ Blinken told reporters Friday.
‘The idea that Ukraine is the aggressor in this situation is absurd.’
Russia currently has around 100,000 troops stationed close to the border with Ukraine, which the Pentagon has warned constitutes an invasion force
Relations between Washington and Vladimir Putin’s Moscow have sunk to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War
U.S. officials are reportedly considering expelling Russia from the dollar-denominated international financial system or targeting its gas exports if Moscow invades Ukraine.
However, Republicans believe Biden’s foreign policy record has emboldened Putin, and that Blinken’s words are not substitute for firm action.
‘I suspect that Vladimir Putin is not too terrified of Joe Biden,’ Republican Sen. Tom Cotton told Fox News on Monday morning before the crunch talks began.
‘This crisis is in part of Joe Biden’s Own Making by projecting weakness and incompetence for instance in the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer, continuing to appease Russia and China, he is projected to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and our enemies that he won’t stand up to defend America’s interests.
‘So Tony Blinken’s tough words are no substitute for Joe Biden’s weak actions.
‘And that’s why Vladimir Putin thinks that he has opportunity to go for the jugular in Ukraine.’
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