Russia-Ukraine tensions: Top diplomats from US and Russia meet in Geneva – but what do both countries want? | World News

Tensions continue to boil in eastern Europe, as the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine continues to draw international attention.

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden warned that “Russia will pay a heavy price” if it invades Ukraine, while Russia announced naval drills in several parts of the world and claimed the West is plotting “provocations” in Ukraine.

In an attempt to ease tensions, the top diplomats from Washington and the Kremlin are set for crunch talks in Geneva.

What does America want from the talks?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is preparing to meet his Russian counterpart, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, however the former indicated that talks will likely fail.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Blinken said on Thursday: “These are difficult issues we are facing and resolving them won’t happen quickly.”

America wants one thing above all.

To get this settled without a Russian invasion of Ukraine so Washington can move attention eastwards. Joe Biden sees China as a much bigger threat and challenge than Russia and wants to focus attention in that direction.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken (left), and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold talks in Geneva on Friday

Barack Obama felt the same, wanting a pivot to the east, but events have a way of interfering in international affairs and the middle east and Syria especially kept sucking his attention back in.

Mr Biden wants to avoid the same with Ukraine and Russia.

But President Biden knows the two are linked, that missteps over Ukraine will complicate matters over China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is watching intently.

If Russia can ride roughshod over the West in Ukraine, the Chinese may be emboldened over Taiwan, which Xi Jinping wants absorbed into the Chinese mainland.

Ukrainian service members unload anti-tank weapons supplied by Britain at the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine January 18, 2022. Picture taken January 18, 2022. Ukrainian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
The United Kingdom has sent defensive weapons to Ukraine

So the Biden administration has worked hard to deter Russia, assiduously trying to build unity and resolve among its allies on sanctions it hopes will be enough to avert invasion.

A carrot and stick approach

The sanctions are largely financial and economic but critics say that is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Joe Biden said that Russia will be met with ‘severe’ economic response if it invades

Washington hopes the carrot and stick approach will be effective.

The stick being the threat of sanctions, the carrot talks on issues Russia wants aired.

America is prepared to talk about transparency, better communication between NATO and Russia, arms reductions, military exercises and missile deployment, hoping that will assuage Russian fears about NATO’s inexorable expansion to the east.

People attend a ceremony in tribute to fallen defenders of Ukraine, including the soldiers killed during a battle with pro-Russian rebels for the Donetsk airport this day in 2015, at a memorial near the headquarters of the Defence Ministry in Kyiv, Ukraine January 20, 2022. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
The US has warned the Kremlin it will face ‘heavy’ sanctions if it invades Ukraine

On the face of it that is not nearly enough to meet Russia’s demands for sweeping security guarantees.

But US negotiators hope there is enough to chew on while more and more military materiel is sent to Ukraine and while the window for invasion passes.

Come mid-February some military experts say the ground will be too soft for the movement of Russian heavy armour.

The Russians want to see written responses to their demands.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Ukraine has borders with a series of NATO members, all of whom fear a Russian attack on their neighbour

What does Russia want from the talks?

Today’s high-level meeting in Geneva is unlikely to yield any major breakthroughs but at least the sides are still talking.

Russia’s core demand, that NATO’s open door policy be shut once and for all and that any promise of future membership for Ukraine and Georgia be revoked is the one issue where NATO has made clear it won’t budge.

The more Russia threatens, the more likely it is that Russia’s other core grievance, the provision of Western military support to Ukraine, will intensify further. That is a considerable diplomatic impasse.

Whatever might be said on other issues of strategic security, the US missile defence systems in Poland and Romania for example which are long-standing grievances for Russia, are secondary and were under discussion before Russia started its troop build-up. Concessions there are unlikely to cut through.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before a meeting with his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force, in the Cabinet Room at the White House, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Joe Biden

NATO’s promise of possible future accession to Ukraine and Georgia is in any case entirely academic. It will not happen anytime soon and both sides know that. Perhaps, if appeasement of sorts is a strategy the US will countenance, it is best to say that out loud.

The Russian stance that this is a complete package, take it or leave it, is a maximalist position and in any case Russia’s foreign ministry has said it wants written responses to each proposal, (which Mr Blinken has already said he will not be giving), which would suggest they will consider the issues separately.

The question is: What is Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal? Even his own diplomats may not know. Will he be content with concessions around the edges of his security guarantee proposals or is diplomacy a side-bar in an inevitable slide to conflict? Is his prize to squeeze concessions from NATO, to downgrade Ukraine’s defensive capabilities (which he could do with missile attacks without even sending troops across the border) or is it about Russia’s place in the world – reasserting a Russian sphere of influence and ensuring Ukraine remains a buffer between Russia and the West? Or is it a more emotional pitch where Ukraine itself is the prize, wrenched as he sees it from the Motherland after the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Mr Putin may not be on some grand imperialist campaign but he does feel the loss of great power status keenly and he does believe in spheres of influence. Even now, with Europe on high alert, he has the whole world talking about him.

The US President’s incursion vs invasion slip is perhaps of relatively little consequence. Russia knows Europe is not united on its response, especially when it comes to hybrid warfare tactics which don’t involve actual military invasion. Russia has also never been swayed by the punishment, it has workshopped all possible sanctions scenarios and they have not deterred it before; it is swayed by the prize. The prize that only Mr Putin knows. That’s what makes diplomacy so hard.

Source Article