Top officials from the US Government will travel to Geneva on Monday for highly anticipated talks with their Russian counterparts, following months of tension over the build up of Russian troops on the Ukraine border and the threat of a potential invasion.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will join Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov in Geneva tomorrow for bilateral negotiations over the conflict on the Ukraine border. Russia has piled up approximately 100,000 troops on the border, leading the US and its allies to seek an immediate resolution.
US administration officials have said they are prepared to discuss two points during the talks on Monday. The first issue concerns Vladimir Putin’s concern that the United States will place missiles in Ukraine. President Biden has told Putin that the US has no intention of doing that, leading a senior administration source to indicate that this is one area the US should be able to reach and understanding with Russia on.
Secondly, the US will discuss military exercises, which have heavily contributed to the escalation of tensions between both sides over the previous months. Russia has intensified the scale of its military exercises it is carrying out near NATO territory. Meanwhile, Moscow regularly complains about the increased tempo of NATO exercises in the Baltic region, which often involves US armoured units. Russia and the United States have further increased the number of flights of nuclear-capable bombers occurring on either side of the Ukraine border.
The issues of missiles in Ukraine will be a significant part of the talks, as the Kremlin has long complained of US missiles in Eastern Europe. There is a missile defence system in Romania, and there is another one being built in Poland, which are designed to take down Iranian ballistic missiles. Putin has expressed grave concern over these missile bases, over fears they could be used to launch missiles into Russia.
There currently remains little expectation within the United States Administration that a concrete agreement can be reached at the Geneva convention. However, the Biden Administration is confident that agreements can be reached on military exercises close to the border and missiles in Ukraine.
Biden warns Putin of severe sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine
The highly anticipated talks between the two superpowers come just one week after President Biden warned Vladimir Putin that there will be severe sanctions placed on Russia if the superpower invades Ukraine. Biden said: “I made it clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves, if he goes into Ukraine, we will have severe sanctions. We will increase our presence in Europe with our NATO allies. There will be a heavy price to pay for it.”
Asked how the Russian President responded, Biden said the United States and Russia will continue to seek to resolve the conflict. “What I got the sense of was that he has agreed that we will have three major conferences in Europe beginning in the middle of the month with our senior staff. … He did not disagree with any of that. He laid out some of his concerns about NATO and United States in Europe, and we laid ours and we said we could begin to negotiate some of those issues,” Biden said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement following the talks saying: “It was made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”
Ukraine has been in combat with Russian backed separatist forces in the eastern part of the country since 2014, after Russia first annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Russia has completely denied any intention to invade Ukraine, instead claiming Ukraine is hatching plans to try to reclaim control of the territories held by Moscow-backed rebels by force. Ukraine has completely denied the accusations.
Putin has publicly expressed concern about including Ukraine within NATO, the alliance between the U.S. and European nations. Furthermore, the Russian President warned Biden that any new sanctions could lead to a breakdown in relations between the two superpowers. Biden and Putin spoke in a conference call earlier this month about the possible invasion of Ukraine, with the US President warning Russia of economic penalties if such a move took place.
Russia earlier this month presented the West with a range of security demands, claiming NATO must not admit new members, and also seeking to ban the United States from establishing new bases in former Soviet countries.
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