After weeks of tension and mutual warnings, Russia and the United States have agreed to hold talks in January to address, in particular, the Ukrainian issue. “January 10 will be the main day for Russian-American bilateral consultations” scheduled for Geneva, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov told Tass on Tuesday (December 28th).
Shortly before, a spokesperson for the National Security Council of the United States had announced to Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the negotiations of the 10th would be followed by a meeting between NATO and Russia. , scheduled for January 12. According to the same source, a round of discussions within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), founded during the Cold War to promote East-West dialogue, is also scheduled for January 13.
“The first meeting in 2022 of the OSCE Permanent Council will take place on January 13”, then confirmed an OSCE spokesperson. Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, new OSCE Chairman-in-Office, will address the “Council which meets weekly and brings together the 57 OSCE participating States, including the United States and Russia”, he clarified.
The discussions promise to be tough
These talks aim to allow a de-escalation after weeks of rising tensions over Ukraine. Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having massed tens of thousands of soldiers on the Ukrainian border in anticipation of a possible invasion; Moscow denies any belligerent inclination and presents itself on the contrary as the target of « provocations » Westerners, who support Ukraine politically and militarily.
The bilateral meeting on January 10 will be held as part of the strategic security dialogue launched by Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutin at their Geneva summit last June. Although this format is mainly devoted to the renegotiation of post-Cold War nuclear arms control treaties, the discussions will also concern the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border, revealed a senior official of the US executive wishing to remain anonymous. . Meetings with NATO and OSCE should be of particular concern to Ukraine.
“When we sit down to discuss, Russia will be able to put its concerns on the table and we will put ours on the table, in particular the activities of Russia”, said the spokesperson for the United States National Security Council.
A sign that these discussions will be bitter, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, has already ruled out any « concession », claiming that Moscow was “In a firm position with regard to the defense of [ses] interests “. Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Poliansky has warned that Russia will not be satisfied with ” bla bla bla “. “We really want something serious this time around”, he told reporters on Tuesday. “This is not an ultimatum”, he said. “It’s a constructive proposition, (…) which is in everyone’s interest ”.
The United States “ready to discuss”
In a gesture that breaks with the generally confidential nature of diplomatic discussions, Russia recently presented two draft treaties handed over to the United States and NATO. At the top of the Russian demands is the ban on any future expansion of the Atlantic Alliance and any military cooperation in what Russia considers its area of influence, of which Ukraine is a part.
“What we need to talk about are the proposals submitted by the Russian side”, insisted Mr. Riabkov. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened measures last week “Military and technical” if his demands were not heard. During the presentation of the draft treaties by Russia, Washington had said “Ready to discuss” about these documents, while stressing that they understood “Some things the Russians know are unacceptable”.
Any agreement with Russia would take Ukrainian interests into account, the spokesperson for the National Security Council said on Monday. “Nothing about our allies and partners” will not be negotiated “Without our allies and partners, including Ukraine”, he insisted. “President Biden’s approach to Ukraine has been clear and consistent: bringing the Alliance together [atlantique] in two directions, deterrence and diplomacy ”, he said.
An American aircraft carrier remains in the Mediterranean
On Tuesday, US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin decided to keep an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean that was to begin a mission in the Gulf for ” reassure “ Europeans in the midst of tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced.
“Defense Minister ordered USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to remain in European Command area of operations [Eucom] instead of going to the central command area of operations [Centcom] as expected “, a Pentagon official told AFP who requested anonymity. Without mentioning the tensions around Ukraine, the head of the Ministry of Defense stressed that this change of itinerary “Reflected the need for a continuous presence in Europe”. “It is necessary to reaffirm with our allies and partners our commitment to our collective defense”, she added.
USS Harry Truman and his carrier strike group arrived in the Mediterranean on December 14 for the Gulf region via the Suez Canal.
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Russia, US to hold talks in January on Ukraine and security in Europe