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No breakthrough after eight-hour talks between US, Russia on Ukraine

“One country cannot change the borders of another by force or dictate the terms of another country's foreign policy, or forbid another country from choosing its own alliances,” the no. 2 US diplomat said.

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Highly anticipated talks between the US and Russia ended Monday after a seven-and-a-half-hour consultation in Geneva between the State Department’s number two diplomat and her Russian counterpart failed to result in any immediate breakthrough on tensions over Ukraine.

Military officials were also present as tensions simmer over Moscow’s threats to invade Ukraine.

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Washington and Europe, led by NATO, have warned that there would be severe consequences if Russia followed through. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are lined up on the border; Moscow claims it has no intentions of military escalation.

While US officials have said that Monday’s talks were a continuation of the “Strategic Security Dialogue,” which started last summer between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the recent discussions focused primarily on Ukraine.

“One country cannot change the borders of another by force or dictate the terms of another country's foreign policy, or forbid another country from choosing its own alliances,” US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in a call after Monday’s meeting. “We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO's open-door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance.”

For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was “absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever” became a member of NATO.

Asked if Russia answered on plans to escalate with Ukraine, Sherman said: “I don’t think we know the answer to that. We made it very clear that it’s very hard to have constructive, productive and successful diplomacy without de-escalation.”

Before the talks, Russia released a list of demands, which guaranteed that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO. But the US issued a strong response, voiced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, last week saying some of the demands were absolute “non-starters.”

NATO also said it was up to each country to make sovereign decisions.

Nevertheless, Blinken said the best way forward was through dialogue and a diplomatic solution.

“We came up with a number of ideas where our two countries could take reciprocal action that would be in our security interest and improve strategic stability,” Sherman said on Monday.

The US has proposed suggestions to ease Russia’s fears include limiting US and NATO military exercises near Russian borders in Eastern Europe. US officials have said that the presence of specific missile systems in Ukraine could also be discussed.

The Biden administration has turned its attention to threats from Russia and China as the most pressing issues facing US national security interests.

Read more: Biden, Putin hold second call this month as US-Russia tensions escalate

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