May 22, 2022 7:11 am

Despite the “disappointment” over the US response, Russia remains open to dialogue for Ukraine

PARIS.- Russia declared itself “disappointed” by the written – and secret – response of the United States to its demands in the Ukraine crisis. However, the Kremlin diplomacy considered that there are enough elements in that text to continue the dialogue.

“There is no positive answer to the main question, that is, to put an end to NATO enlargement. But it contains a reaction that allows us to wait for the beginning of a dialogue on secondary issues,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted in a statement.

Too the Kremlin regretted “that Russia’s views were not taken into account. Or that there is no willingness to take our concerns into consideration,” according to his spokesman, Dimitri Peskov. However, Russia will not rush to react. “We won’t be long in making our reaction known, but we shouldn’t expect it to come right away,” he added, perhaps hinting that an attack on Ukraine will not come immediately.

The United States and NATO rejected, in letters sent to the Kremlin, Moscow’s demands to make a written commitment not to incorporate Ukraine or Georgia into NATO and to return the military presence of the Atlantic organization to the European borders of 1997. However, the White House at the same time reaffirmed its willingness to want to seriously negotiate with Russia on all the concerns related to its security.

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kiev, Ukraine, on January 22, 2022.Sean Gallup – Getty Images Europe

Indeed, the United States has already made more or less direct and public concessions on two points. Although Washington declares the principle of “open NATO doors” and the right of States to choose their alliances “non-negotiable”, the Americans admit that Ukraine will not join the Atlantic Alliance in the short term.

President Joe Biden was the most explicit on this issue, which could take the form of a moratorium in which NATO would state that, for the moment, neither Ukraine nor Georgia have the vocation to join the organization.

“Perhaps this would be the best way for Westerners to get out of the trap they got into at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, letting Kiev see a prospect of accession,” analyzed Alyona Getmanchouk, director of the center of reflection New Europe Center.

The United States – which yesterday convened a meeting of the UN Security Council for Monday – also proposes reciprocal transparency measures on the positioning of the Armed Forces, the deployment of missile systems, maneuvers and military exercises in Europe. The idea dates back to June 2021, when Biden, after the summit with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, asked the Pentagon for an evaluation of the US and NATO military exercises in Europe in order to eventually reduce their number.

“This reflection was already underway in the US administration and it is in this area that Westerners could make concrete concessions in the short term,” added Getmanchouk.

Given more time, negotiations could revolve around nuclear and conventional arms control, particularly medium-range nuclear forces, and strategic arms reduction. North Americans and Europeans are very interested in resuming that dialogue with Putin, even though the way to make a place for Europe in that negotiation is pending.

In any case, this is the first time that a US administration has taken Russia’s requests into account, an unprecedented form of concession and a software change for US diplomacy. “From that point of view, Biden seems to have learned the lesson of Barack Obama’s presidency, choosing a different method. The problem is that all this is taking place in the midst of a Russian military escalation, which greatly complicates the start of a negotiation”, analyzed Tara Varma, head of the Paris bureau of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

For experts, indeed, a de-escalation is necessary to be able to begin to thoroughly negotiate the different issues. In this extremely volatile situation, Paris and Berlin are trying to reactivate diplomatic channels with a new meeting between French, German, Ukrainian and Russian representatives in Berlin in two weeks. In the first meeting the day before yesterday in the French capital, Ukrainians and Russians confirmed their willingness to respect the ceasefire on the border between the two countries, which was agreed in 2015 in the so-called Minsk agreements, without much success.

For Varma, even if there are no immediate results, “the fact that Moscow has responded favorably to this initiative shows that there is a will, at least, to maintain dialogue.”

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