A week of discussions involving Russia and the United States began with cautious optimism and came to a standstill.
These dead ends arrive amid the “drumbeat of war,” as the two parties return to their respective capitals to ponder the next steps.
The Talks Changed Nothing
“The discussions have not resulted in any big changes in the intelligence image we see surrounding Ukraine,” NATO’s top defense spokesman, Adm. Rob Bauer, told journalists in Brussels on Thursday evening.
Few expected substantial advances this week as US, European, and Russian officials debated Russia’s military expansion, along with the Ukrainian border and Moscow’s requests that NATO withdraws from multiple regions.
However, the sessions resulted in little more than protests from both sides about the lack of common grounds on which to build a future.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 13, 2022
“The US and its partners are saying exactly ‘no’ to crucial sections of these texts,” Russia’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said. “This is what we term a fork in the road.”
“The drumming of war is ringing louder, and the language has gotten rather strident,” said Michael Carpenter, the United States ambassador at the Association for Security and relationships in Europe.
Approximately 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine’s eastern border. This includes freshly constructed bases equipped with vehicles and transportable rocket launchers capable of crossing the border in hours.
Russia’s demands that Ukraine and Georgia be indefinitely blocked from NATO membership and the organization return to its pre-1997 policy of shutting out minor, former Soviet client republics is unworkable in Washington and Brussels.
The documentation governing Russian talks is a draft “treaty” detailing those objectives, published by Moscow in December.
War is on the Horizon
Before Thursday’s session, OSCE Chair Zbigniew Rau remarked, “it appears the risk of conflict in the OSCE territory is currently larger than it has ever been in the last 30 years.”
“It only gets tougher from here. It doesn’t appear there is a clear procedure in respect of a way ahead, let alone contents,” RAND Company’s Samuel Charap said.
At a security meeting of 57 nations in Vienna, Poland's foreign minister said Europe was closer to war than any time in the last three decades, as Russia said diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions over Ukraine were hitting a dead end https://t.co/n4WkwJRuSt pic.twitter.com/NuMijVPjDr
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 14, 2022
On Thursday, national security advisor Jake Sullivan called the week of talks frank, direct, and productive. He then said the US would “now contemplate and confer with partners and friends on how to continue.”
He later disclosed that no date has been established for additional negotiations with Russia.
At a White House press briefing, Sullivan said, “We’re prepared either way. At the bargaining table, we’re ready to make headway.”
“We’re set to take the necessary and appropriate measures to defend our allies, back our partners, and retaliate forcefully in the event of any open aggression.”
He went on to say the White House intends to disclose evidence acquired by the US intelligence community. This evidence reportedly points to a Russian misinformation effort aimed at “making up false justifications” for an attack on Ukraine.