Sat, 29 Jan 2022

Russia-Ukraine Tensions on Agenda for OSCE Talks

Voice of America
13 Jan 2022, 18:06 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - Efforts to de-escalate tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border shift Thursday to Vienna and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Permanent Council.

The session follows a bilateral meeting between Russia and the United States in Geneva on Monday and talks Wednesday in Brussels between Russia and NATO.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that after Thursday's meeting, the parties involved would reflect on the discussions and "determine appropriate next steps."

Price said Wednesday the United States expects the Russian delegations to the three sets of meetings will "have to report back to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, who we all hope will choose peace and security, and knowing that we are sincere, and that we are steadfast when we say we prefer the course of diplomacy and dialogue."

The United States and its NATO allies have urged Russia to de-escalate tensions and for the situation to be resolved diplomatically, and on Wednesday offered ideas for reciprocal actions to reduce risks, improve transparency and communication and arms control.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation in Brussels, said the NATO-Russia meeting ended with "a sober challenge" for Moscow to reduce tensions and "choose the path of diplomacy, to continue to engage in honest and reciprocal dialogue so that together we can identify solutions that enhance the security of all," during a press conference.

After the nearly four-hour meeting on Wednesday, Sherman said, "there was no commitment to de-escalate, nor was there a statement that there would not be."

She added Russia heard loudly and clearly it is very hard to have diplomacy when 100,000 of its troops are massed along the Ukrainian border, and as live fire exercises are being conducted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Cabinet meeting via a videoconference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 12, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Cabinet meeting via a videoconference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 12, 2022.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he has proposed the idea of a series of meetings with Russia, which asked for time to return with an answer.

"NATO allies are ready to engage in dialogue with Russia, but we will not compromise on core principles, we will not compromise on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every nation in Europe," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Russia has sought security guarantees such as the withdrawal of NATO troops and military equipment from countries that border Russia, and limiting the expansion of the 30-member NATO alliance. It has also denied it has plans to invade Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told reporters Wednesday that the discussions with NATO were deep and substantive, but said Russia does not seriously consider NATO to be a defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia.

"If NATO opts for the policy of deterrence, we will respond with a policy of counter-deterrence," Grushko said. "If it turns to intimidation, we will respond with counter-intimidation. If it looks for vulnerabilities in Russia's defense system, we will look for NATO's vulnerabilities. It's not our choice, but we don't have other options if we don't overturn this current very dangerous course of events."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy proposed a new international summit to end the crisis.

"It is time to agree in a substantive manner on an end to the conflict, and we are ready to take the necessary decisions during a new summit of the leaders of the four countries," Zelenskiy said Tuesday in a statement following a meeting with European diplomats.

Britain's Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly, center, arrives for the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, Jan. 12, 2022. Britain's Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly, center, arrives for the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, Jan. 12, 2022.

In Washington, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday proposed a comprehensive sanctions package to deter Russia from further aggression.

The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials if Putin escalates hostile action against Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden has ruled out a military confrontation with Russia in the event it decides to attack Ukraine, but he says the U.S. and its allies would impose significant economic sanctions if Russia does invade.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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