Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

In Moscow, the hope is for “fairly quick results”, while Washington is talking about uncertain outcomes. As US and Russian diplomats prepare for a summit in Geneva with Europe’s geopolitical balance at stake, the difference in mood music is sharp.

Russia joins more than 100,000 troops on Monday threateningly stationed on the border with neighboring Ukraine, and threatened military action if the talks end in nothing, it’s just part of its leverage.

More importantly, President Vladimir Putin has already achieved the goal of forcing the US to zipper claims which would reform Europe’s security architecture, with few areas of possible agreement that would not look like Western capitulation.

“Putin is entering these talks with a very strong hand. . . I think this meeting was misjudged, “said Judy Dempsey, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe. “The summit will only yield marginal success if the west enters together and they have had a serious negotiation strategy. And they do not have one. ”

Russia viewed Europe through the Cold War prism of a continent halved between superpowers, Dempsey explained, clashing with American and European views forged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“How [the Americans] this circle is actually going to be square, is going to be very difficult. “Putin is from the old school and will not give up on spheres of influence,” she added.

Two lists of Russian claims lodged with the United States and NATO last month include a ban on Ukraine and other former Soviet states joining the Western military alliance, a ban on the deployment of any missiles near enough to hit Russia, and a Kremlin veto over where NATO troops and weapons could be stationed in almost all of its eastern flankers.

The negotiations two fundamental goals that defined Putin’s two-decade rule: a seat at the top geopolitical table across from the US, and the prospect of halting NATO’s eastern expansion and reducing the US military presence in Europe.

“The very fact. . . that security guarantees are discussed at all. . . is a major breakthrough ”for Russia, said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of R. Politik, a Kremlin-focused political consultation. “It has never happened before.”

For US negotiators, led by Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, a de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis is the primary goal. But how to achieve this without giving their Russian counterparts a price to take home to Moscow that would weaken the security of Kiev or NATO allies in Eastern Europe seems a dangerous task.

US Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
US Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman hopes to de-escalate Ukraine’s crisis as she begins talks with Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov © AP

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that President Joe Biden believes the Geneva talks can “make progress on some issues while others are not viable” – and that the US will not “respond” to Moscow’s demands. by point ”.

“We do not know what next week’s talks will bring, but. . . we believe there are areas in which we can make progress with Moscow. . . if they come to the table ready to do so, ”she added.

Biden is under increasing pressure to defuse a crisis that threatens to entangle his administration as he tries to focus on other issues, primarily tackling the rising Omicron coronavirus variant and calming inflation.

At the same time, the White House knows that any proposal that has deviated from Russian demands to undermine its own claims to stand up against authoritarian leaders is likely to cause a two-party setback on Capitol Hill and sound alarm bells among allies around the world rely on US security guarantees.

The Russian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, will also meet with NATO officials in Brussels and members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe the next day. But Moscow has made it clear that it sees the US as its primary negotiating partner, and that NATO allies will follow Washington’s lead.

“We hope… For a fairly quick result,” Ryabkov told the Izvestiya newspaper on Thursday. “It will become clear whether rapid progress is possible… On the topics that interest us.”

R. Politik’s Stanovaja said Putin would only be satisfied with concrete progress in Geneva, given the extent to which NATO has already expanded to the former Soviet Eastern Europe.

“In reality, no one knows what will be enough. . . “It is clear that Putin will not get everything on his list,” she added. “But on this first stage. . . some concession on the part of the USA will be needed. “

What complicates Sherman’s mandate is the absence of the talks between both Ukraine and the EU, both of which demanded a role in the talks but were successfully set aside by Moscow.

US officials have repeatedly stressed that no discussion of Ukraine can take place without Ukrainian presence, and that European security was a matter for Europe and NATO. But to exclude both of these topics will leave little to be discussed.

Coordination between the US and Europe is hampered by persistent divisions within the EU on both how to deal with Russia, and Brussels’ role in the continent’s defense and security.

France and Germany, which held their own talks in Moscow this week, are viewed with skepticism by some eastern EU states who consider themselves too willing to find a place to stay in the Kremlin. France is also leading a push to expand the EU’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and defense capabilities, a move opposed by other member states rejecting anything that would weaken NATO’s role as their primary security guarantee.

“The USA and the Europeans. . . “They need a shopping list of what they want, not just what Russia wants,” Dempsey told Carnegie Europe. “This [summit] is about exactly what Russia wants. We still do not know what [the west] of Russia. “

“We’re going to the table with nothing,” she added. “Absolutely nothing in our hands.”

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