© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks on the state of affairs in Afghanistan on the State Division in Washington, DC, U.S. August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool by way of REUTERS
By Simon Lewis and Mark Trevelyan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats start in Geneva on Monday after a weeks-long standoff over Russian troop deployments close to its border with Ukraine, with veteran envoys on all sides making an attempt to avert a disaster.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the No. 2 official on the U.S. State Division, will face Russian Deputy Overseas Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The 2 mixed have greater than half a century of diplomatic expertise.
Russia, which moved almost 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, says it’s not getting ready for an invasion however desires to see the West again off from its assist for Ukraine’s authorities and halt the eastward growth of the NATO navy alliance.
Washington has already dismissed a few of Moscow’s calls for as unviable, making speedy progress desired by Russia within the conferences unlikely.
An added wrinkle is Russia sending troops to quell anti-government protests in neighboring Kazakhstan this week, elevating concern in Washington.
In a telephone name final week between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, Biden reiterated that the U.S. and European allies would impose unprecedented sanctions if Russia selected to invade Ukraine. Putin responded that sanctions might result in a “full breakdown in ties.”
Ryabkov informed the Izvestia newspaper this week that Russia’s strategy was essentially robust, as a result of its earlier makes an attempt at persuasion had been fruitless.
Ryabkov repeated Moscow’s calls for for a halt to NATO enlargement, no deployment of its weapons methods in Ukraine and an finish to “provocative” navy workout routines.
“All these are completely mandatory integral parts, with out which we shall be pressured to state that the opposite facet is exhibiting a scarcity of cooperation,” he stated.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken fired again on Friday that Russia was pushing a “false narrative” that Ukraine and NATO posed a menace to Russia to justify its troop buildup.
Different officers can even play lead roles when the talks transfer to Brussels for a NATO-Russia assembly on Wednesday earlier than a gathering hosted by the Group for Safety and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.
Sherman and Ryabkov will lead the 2 delegations in Geneva, the place each side will air their issues in a unprecedented session of the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue (SSD), talks usually designed to move off the potential of nuclear confrontation, a senior State Division official stated on Friday.
“Hopefully it’s going to end in figuring out just a few bilateral points the place there may be sufficient widespread floor to proceed discussions and finally deal with collectively via the SSD,” stated the official, who briefed reporters on situation of anonymity.
After the assembly, Washington expects Russian officers to make public feedback “that won’t mirror the true nature of the discussions,” the official added, urging U.S. allies to view these feedback with excessive skepticism.
Thomas Graham (NYSE:), a former senior director for Russia on the White Home’s Nationwide Safety Council, stated Sherman and Ryabkov had been vastly skilled and would conduct the talks professionally, understanding that the duty is to defuse the present disaster.
“There aren’t going to be raised voices or pounding on the desk,” stated Graham, now a distinguished fellow on the Council on Overseas Relations.
Andrey Kortunov, an analyst who heads the Russian Worldwide Affairs Council, stated the Kremlin would possibly see confidence-building measures and a few constraint from the West in supplying fashionable weaponry to Ukraine as adequate to cut back tensions.
Sherman, 72, a former social employee, has served in Democratic administrations for the reason that Nineteen Nineties. She is greatest recognized for main negotiations on the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, which additionally concerned coping with Russian diplomats.
Sherman, just like the deal itself, was criticized by hawks in Washington as being too gentle on Iran. In Iran, anti-American protesters reportedly chanted “Demise to Sherman” throughout the negotiations.
In her earlier position as underneath secretary of state, Sherman traveled to Kyiv in 2014, the place she spoke about holding again tears as she walked via the Maidan, the central Kyiv sq. the place Ukrainians gathered in protests that toppled a Russian-backed authorities.
Sherman stated she was approached by “schoolchildren with flowers” quite than the “harmful parts” Moscow stated had been behind the protests, and issued a warning to Putin over his annexation of Crimea and the battle involving Russia-backed separatists within the Donbass area.
Ryabkov, 61, is a 40-year veteran of the Soviet and Russian international ministries who in current weeks has delivered a few of Moscow’s harshest rhetoric and direst warnings on the Ukraine disaster.
He has greater than as soon as in contrast the state of affairs to the 1962 Cuban missile disaster, when the world got here near nuclear battle, and has warned that Russia could be compelled to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Kortunov, who has recognized Ryabkov for years, stated the diplomat was much less hawkish than some members of Russia’s safety institution however can be as versatile or inflexible because the Kremlin required.
“On the finish of the day it is as much as Mr Putin to outline the crimson strains, not Ryabkov, and Ryabkov will do his greatest to articulate the crimson strains,” stated Kortunov.