The U.S. and Russia face deep differences before the Ukraine talks

Wilmington, Delaware (Associated Press)-After President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin engaged in intense negotiations on the issue of Russia’s assembly of troops on the Ukrainian border, both parties insisted that they wanted to During the diplomatic negotiations scheduled for January, a way to ease tensions can be opened.

But less than two weeks before senior US and Russian officials meet in Geneva, the gap is deep and there is no lack of complexity in finding prospects for getting rid of the crisis.

Biden told reporters on Friday that he told Putin on the phone the day before that the upcoming talks will only work if the Russian leader “decelerates rather than escalate the situation” in the next few days. The American president said that he also tried to show Putin that if the Russians further invaded Ukraine, the United States and its allies are ready to impose punitive sanctions on Russia at any time.

Biden said: “I made it clear to President Putin that if he takes more actions against Ukraine, we will be severely sanctioned. We will increase our presence in Europe together with NATO allies.”

At the same time, Biden’s national security team turned its attention on Friday to the Geneva talks to be held from January 9 to 10 to discuss Russia’s gathering of approximately 100,000 soldiers on its border with Ukraine.

The Geneva talks will be chaired by senior officials from the US State Department, followed by Russia-NATO Council talks and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting.

Biden is scheduled to speak on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodmir Zelensky on Sunday. According to the White House, the two leaders plan to review preparations for upcoming diplomatic contacts.

On Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Brinken reported on the Biden-Putin call to Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolly, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. And discussed the preparations for the upcoming talks.

“The next two weeks will be tough,” said Daniel Fried, the former U.S. ambassador to Poland, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton on Eastern Europe. “The Biden administration is very reliable in outlining and formulating negotiations. But the most severe test has yet to come, because Putin will continue to adopt threats and marginal policies to see how determined we are.”

Although Biden reiterated that he is ready to implement sanctions that will have repercussions throughout Russia, Kremlin officials have redoubled their warnings that Biden made a “great mistake”, which could have a huge impact on already tense US-Russian relations.

On Friday, a senior Putin aide emphasized that Russia supports his request for written security assurances. Moscow hopes that any future expansion of NATO must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, and requires the alliance to remove offensive weapons from Russia’s neighbors.

“We will not let our initiatives drown in endless discussions,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the national RIA-Novosti news agency. “If there is no constructive answer within a reasonable time and the West continues its aggressive route, Russia will have to take all necessary measures to maintain strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our security.”

The Biden administration and NATO allies have made it clear that Russia’s request is impossible.

The seemingly unrealistic remarks have caused some in Washington to question the validity of the negotiations.

After Biden spoke with Putin, a group of 24 former U.S. national security officials and Russian experts-the group including several officials who served in the Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton administrations-issued a statement calling for goodbye Deng immediately and publicly listed the punishment that Russia will face if Putin continues to take military actions.

The signatories of the statement include several former US ambassadors, including Fried, Russian envoys Michael McFall and Alexander Fushbo, as well as Ukrainian envoys Steven Piver and John Herbst.

The organization wrote: “We believe that before the Russian leader chooses further military upgrades, the United States should conduct the closest consultations with its NATO allies and Ukraine, and take immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations.” “Such a response will include A package of major and painful sanctions. If Russia attacks Ukraine, it will be implemented immediately. Ideally, the outline of these sanctions will now be communicated to Moscow so that the Kremlin has a clear understanding of the severity of the economic blow it will face.”

As far as Russia is concerned, they continue to claim that they are facing an existential threat from Ukraine.

Lavrov pointed out on Friday that the supply of weapons to Ukraine has increased, and the number and scope of joint military exercises conducted by Western powers and Ukraine have continued to expand, and blamed “The Kyiv regime naturally regards this support as a plenipotentiary use of force.” . He added that Russia will protect citizens living in eastern Ukraine.

He said: “As for the residents of Donbass, where hundreds of thousands of our citizens live, Russia will take all necessary measures to protect them.” “It will fully respond to any possible military provocations by Kiev against Donbass.”

Russia supports the separatist rebellion in the East Donbass region, which has killed more than 14,000 people since it began in 2014. In recent years, Russia has provided citizenship to people living in the region.

Simon Myers, a Cold War diplomacy and international historian at Duke University, said that the White House was wrong to let “Russia unilaterally set the pace of what is about to unfold”.

Myers said: “Whatever the United States can do to make the Russians back down, rather than let the Kremlin set the agenda, it is important to ensure a favorable solution.”

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The Associated Press Moscow writer Vladimir Isachenkov (Vladimir Isachenkov) contributed to this report.

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