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Still significant divides between Russia and U.S. over Ukraine issue

Russian T-72B3 main battle tanks drive during snowfall as the armed forces of the Southern Military District hold drills at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia January 27, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

In their stalemate over Ukraine, Russia said on Thursday that it was evident that the U.S. was unwilling to address its primary security concerns, but both parties left the door open for further talks.

The news: Russia has demanded a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe, provoking Western concerns of an invasion and new U.S. defence vows. The U.S. and NATO responded in writing on Wednesday to Russia’s demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.

  • Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Moscow needed time to analyse the situation and would not jump to conclusions, but that statements from the U.S. and NATO labelling Russia’s major objectives as unacceptable left little space for hope.
  • The sophisticated Kremlin answer demonstrated that Russia was not outright rejecting the U.S. and NATO reactions or closing the door to diplomacy. Washington and its partners are hoping that Russia would consider their comments and return to the bargaining table.
  • The easiest approach to de-escalate tensions, according to Russia’s foreign ministry, is for NATO to withdraw its forces from eastern Europe, but it also sought to allay fears of an invasion. Officials from the United States said President Vladimir Putin has not yet chosen whether or not to invade.
An aerial view shows Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and a truck during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia January 27, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What they’re saying: What In a phone discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated that Washington and its allies are prepared to respond severely if Russia invades the former Soviet state, according to the White House.

  • The White House said in a statement that Biden said the U.S. is “exploring more macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy under pressure stemming from Russia’s military build-up.” They decided on “shared activities for the future,” Zelenskiy stated on Twitter, and they discussed financial support options. A committee of senators from the United States has been meeting to prepare legislation to increase defence funding to Kyiv.

Russia’s security demands, which were given in December, include a halt to further NATO enlargement, the exclusion of Ukraine from membership, and the withdrawal of NATO personnel and armaments from post-Cold War eastern European countries.

  • The U.S. and NATO reactions were not made public, but both had earlier rejected the requests while indicating willingness to work on subjects like arms limitation, confidence-building measures, and military exercise size and scope constraints.
  • China advised the U.S. that all parties involved in Ukraine should “stay calm” and “avoid doing actions that aggravate emotions and escalate the issue.”

Washington had its own message for Beijing.

  • “We are calling on Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to urge diplomacy, because if there is a conflict in the Ukraine it is not going to be good for China either,” said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
A Russian service member stands on a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What’s going on: According to policy analysts, with China-Russia ties arguably at their warmest in history, Washington cannot anticipate Chinese support for its stance in the dispute.

  • If Russia invades Ukraine, Western countries have threatened economic sanctions, expanding on measures implemented since 2014, when Moscow invaded Crimea and Russian-backed separatists began fighting Kyiv government forces in eastern Ukraine.
  • However, there are disparities between the U.S. and its European Union allies, who rely on Russia for roughly a third of their gas. If Russia invades Ukraine, Washington is talking with Germany to ensure that a controversial Russia-Germany pipeline project does not proceed.
  • The U.S. has attempted to reassure the EU that if Russia cuts them off, it will assist them in finding alternate gas suppliers, but global supplies are limited.
  • According to Russia’s foreign minister, there was hope of initiating real engagement with the U.S., but only on secondary topics, a day after Ukrainian, Russian, German, and French officials reviewed the conflict in eastern Ukraine and agreed to more negotiations.
  • The U.S. has requested that the UN Security Council convene publicly on Monday to consider the threat presented by Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine.
Russian T-72B3 main battle tanks drive during drills held by the armed forces of the Southern Military District at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What’s important: Putin, who hasn’t spoken publicly about the problem in weeks, has threatened an unspecified “military-technical response” if Russia’s demands aren’t met, which defence analysts believe could refer to missile installations.

  • Without efforts to maintain moderation and predictability, a nuclear missile crisis between Moscow and Washington will be inescapable, according to a top Russian foreign ministry official.
  • Although Biden has stated that no U.S. or ally troops will be sent to Ukraine to combat Russia, NATO has stated that it is putting forces on standby and bolstering eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets.
Over a dozen Russian navy warships set out into the Baltic Sea on Thursday for drills performed exercises focused on naval and anti-aircraft defense.
Russia said on Thursday (January 27) the United States had shown it was not willing to address Moscow’s main security concerns, set out during their standoff over Ukraine, but that both sides had an interest in continuing dialogue.
Russia said on Thursday it was clear the United States was not willing to address its main security concerns in their standoff over Ukraine, but kept the door open for further dialogue.
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