Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday in Geneva in hopes of securing a “diplomatic off-ramp” to the Ukraine crisis, a US official said.
“Secretary Blinken is 150 percent committed to see if there is a diplomatic off-ramp here and that really is the impetus behind this engagement with Foreign Minister Lavrov,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
“It’s really an opportunity for the US to share our major concerns with Russia and to see where there might be an opportunity for Russia and the United States to find common ground,” she said.
Blinken flies later Tuesday to Ukraine in a show of support as tens of thousands of Russian troops amass on the country’s border.
He will then head to Berlin for four-way talks with Britain, France and Germany on the crisis as Western powers warn Russia of painful consequences if it invades Ukraine.
The US official said that Blinken agreed with Lavrov to the talks in a telephone call, but said it was possible that Russia was not interested in a diplomatic solution.
“I think it’s still too early to tell if the Russian government is genuinely interested in diplomacy, if it is prepared to negotiate seriously in good faith, or whether it will use discussions as a pretext to claim that diplomacy didn’t address Moscow’s interests,” the official said.
The official again warned that that the United States is prepared if Russia chooses to invade.
Along with economic consequences, “we will provide additional defensive materials to the Ukrainians” if there is an invasion, she said.
The official also voiced alarm at Russian movements Tuesday into Belarus, whose strongman Alexander Lukashenko is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The fact that we are seeing this movement into Belarus clearly gives the Russians another approach should they decide to take further military action against Ukraine,” the official said.
Belarus, which borders Ukraine, said that Russian troops had arrived for combat readiness drills.
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