U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov will lead security talks between the two nations in Geneva on Jan. 10 as international pressure mounts on Russia to de-escalate tensions along the Ukraine border.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin, held a telephone conversation, based on Moscow’s request to constructively resolve issues based on mutual national interests. Russia had recently amassed 60,000 to 90,000 troops along the Ukraine border, alarming European powers and the NATO alliance. Putin is seeking legally-binding security guarantees from NATO regarding weapons deployment and other expansions along its eastern border.
“During the talks we will seek firm legal guarantees on Russia’s security from the U.S. side, namely that NATO will not move eastwards and that weapons systems threatening Russia will not be deployed near our borders,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told a briefing on Thursday.
Meanwhile, during the recent 50-minute talk, Biden warned Putin of invoking sanctions along with an escalation of American presence if an attack is made on Ukraine. Moscow had annexed the Crimea region in Ukraine back in 2014 and supports pro-Russian separatist forces within the country who have been waging an almost eight-year-old war against Kyiv’s forces.
“I made clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves, if he goes into Ukraine, we will have severe sanctions. We will increase our presence in Europe, with our NATO allies, and there will be a heavy price to pay for it,” Biden told reporters as he left a Wilmington, Delaware, restaurant.
More talks are expected in January and the leaders are looking for ways to solve the current predicament. “Both leaders acknowledged that there were likely to be areas where we could make the meaningful progress as well as areas where agreements may be impossible, and that the upcoming talks would determine more precisely the contours of each of those categories,” said a senior administration official to Reuters.
Putin has made it clear that any sanctions that could include cutting Russia off the global financial system would receive an immediate response, and “could lead to a complete breakdown in ties between our countries,” according to Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov.
Biden will also hold a talk with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, which officials say will discuss the border crisis along with territorial integrity and preparations for engagements with Russia this month.
“As we have agreed with our Strategic Partner (the United States), nothing about (Ukraine) without (Ukraine). Look forward to talking again with @POTUS this Sunday to coordinate our steps for the sake of peace in Ukraine and security in Europe,” Zelensky wrote in a tweet on Saturday.
Ukraine wants to join NATO but the alliance claims the country has a long way to go before gaining membership including internal reforms and implementing the rule of law. Besides NATO would be stretched thin and further resources needed to be invested to maintain security along Ukrainian borders.
Russia will hold a session with NATO on Jan. 12, and there will be a more comprehensive meeting between the country, the United States, Ukraine, and other European nations is scheduled for Jan. 13 in Vienna.
From The Epoch Times