Consultations between the United States and Russia on security assurances were held in Geneva on January 10. The conversation lasted 7.5 hours. The Russian delegation was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin, the American delegation—by First Deputy US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Under Secretary for Arms Control Bonnie Jenkins. Both sides called the talks constructive, however, they failed to reach agreement on key issues.
How Russia and the USA assess the talks
The negotiator from the Russian side stated that the conversation had been "difficult, long, very professional, deep, and to-the-point." He added that the situation with bilateral negotiations was not hopeless. According to him, the benefit from them was that for the first time the parties had been able to discuss issues that had not been raised before and call things for what they are.
The US spokeswoman reported that the discussion had been "very direct and straightforward."
Ryabkov stressed that the United States and Russia had failed to agree on the non-expansion of NATO in the eastern part of Europe, which had been the main issue for Moscow. The representative of the Russian Federation stated that Moscow was not going to give up its demands, but added that a balance of interests between the RF and the United States could be found without this.
"This is an issue of Russian national security... The situation is so dangerous that we can no longer afford to postpone this fundamental issue," he said in his statement following the consultations.
He again noted the need to provide legal guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia would never join the Alliance.
"We don't trust the other side. We need ironclad, legally relevant guarantees, not promises, but guarantees, with the words "must", "obliged to" never become NATO members," Ryabkov stressed.
Sherman responded that the United States would not let Russia close NATO's doors to any country.
Issues of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Ryabkov stated that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine and added that the actions that caused concern to the West were the maneuvers of Russian troops held on the territory of the Russian Federation.
"I read with interest an article in the New York Times today that essentially states that Russia wants to trade a 'Russian threat to Ukraine' for greater negotiating flexibility from the US and the West. That is not the case because we have no intention of invading Ukraine, and therefore we have nothing to bargain," he said.
Moreover, the Russian negotiator pointed to possible joint provocations from Ukraine and various Western countries.
Sherman, in turn, noted that the best proof of Ryabkov's words was the return of the Russian soldiers to the barracks. She said she had repeated to her Russian counterpart that any invasion of Ukraine would have serious consequences for Russia. According to her, she informed Ryabkov that "we will not make decisions about the fate of Ukraine without Ukraine, that of Europe without Europe, that of NATO without NATO."
Context. Negotiations with Russia will continue. A meeting of the Russia—NATO Council is scheduled for January 12; the Russia—OSCE summit—for January 13.