Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Washington is trying to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine while the Kremlin watches extensive security demands.

Officials from Russia and the United States hold security talks in Geneva, begins a week of diplomatic activity in Europe aimed at defusing tensions over Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and his delegation arrived with a police escort at the US diplomatic mission in the Swiss city for Monday’s face-to-face talks with Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State, and her team.

The meeting, which began shortly before 08:00 GMT, is seen as a possible first step in rekindling the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, with the two tires at a low point about Russia’s military build – up near Ukraine.

But diplomats on both sides were pessimistic about the prospects for progress.

Ryabkov said over the weekend it was entirely possible that diplomacy could end after a single meeting, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken scaled down expectations for any breakthroughs.

Military build-up

Washington says Russia has deployed an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine in recent months, eight years after it seized the Crimean peninsula from its neighbor and shortly afterwards supported a separatist rebellion in the country’s east.

The military action has raised fears in Kiev and US President Joe Biden’s White House of yet another Russian invasion.

The US and Ukraine’s other Western allies, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, have vowed to enforce strawwe strawwe on Russia – which is expected to take the form of comprehensive sanctions – if it launches an offensive.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied plotting to invade Ukraine and blamed NATO for undermining the region’s security.

Last month, Moscow sent a wish list of safety requirements to calm tension.

Many are seen as non-beginners in the West, especially a demand that NATO promise to give up military activities in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

‘Conversations can end in bitterness’

Al Jazeera’s reporter from London, Jonah Hull, said US negotiators would “begin to test Russia’s real intentions” during Monday’s talks, which form part of the Strategic Security Dialogue talks held by Biden and Putin during a June 2021 summit launched in Geneva.

“There are not many people today who expect something like an agreement to come out of these talks,” he said.

“It is seen as a start, albeit one that could possibly end in bitterness and collapse, and the best hope is that at this moment they will be able to exchange concerns and seek possible common ground.”

Monday’s negotiations will be followed by Russia-NATO talks on Wednesday in Brussels and a meeting in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe on Thursday.

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