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U.S. Looks To Ease Tensions With Russia

  • The U.S. and Russia are looking to hold talks to discuss the Kremlin’s security proposals next month.
  • Russia has ramped up rhetoric, warning that it was willing to take military measures if the West launched “unfriendly” actions with regard to Ukraine
  • The United States has responded in kind, stating that it will levy harsh sections if Russia makes any more aggressive moves towards Ukraine.

The United States and Russia will likely hold bilateral talks to discuss Moscow's security proposals next month as the Kremlin ramped up is rhetoric by again warning it was prepared to take military measures if the West launched "unfriendly" actions with regard to Ukraine. "We will decide on a date together with Russia, and we believe that that will take place in January," Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried said in a call with media on December 21.

Donfried said that NATO will be holding a meeting on December 21 to discuss inviting Russia for talks on its proposals. Meanwhile, she said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was working out how it wants to engage Russia.

"My sense is that we will be seeing movement in these channels in the month of January," she said.

Russia on December 17 published sweeping new security demands it is seeking from the West that would essentially give Moscow a sphere of influence in neighboring countries while rolling back many of the advances NATO has made in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since the 1990s.

The demands were laid out in the form of two draft agreements with the United States and NATO.

Donfried said that some of the demands were unacceptable and that Russia knows this, but added others merited discussion. She did not elaborate.

The Russian security demands come as the Kremlin amasses about 100,000 combat-ready troops near the border with Ukraine in what the United States has said could be a prelude to an invasion as early as next month.

Analysts have said the military buildup could be aimed at strengthening Russia's position at the bargaining table with the United States and NATO.

Russia is seeking a commitment from the West that Ukraine will not join NATO, calling it a "red line." Most analysts say that Ukraine is at least a decade away from joining the security alliance.

Donfried called on Russia to pull back its troops, saying talks can only succeed in an atmosphere of de-escalation.

Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the alliance's support for Ukraine, saying it backed Kyiv's "right to choose its own path."

Addressing concerns among the military alliance's eastern contingent, Donfried said that NATO will consult with all 30 members as it engages in talks with Russia.

Related: U.S. Oil Rig Count Jumps Along With Crude Prices

Speaking the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for constructive talks with Washington and Brussels on Moscow's security guarantees and that there were signs the West was ready to work on the issue.

"Armed conflicts and bloodshed are absolutely not something we would choose, we do not want such a scenario," Putin said.

He said Russia's proposals were no ultimatum, but it had nowhere to retreat over Ukraine and in a meeting with Defense Ministry officials, he took a much sharper tone, saying that if the West continued its "obviously aggressive stance," Russia would take "appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures".

Russia "will react toughly to unfriendly steps," he said, adding that he wanted to underscore that "we have every right to do so."

Donfried said that any Russian aggression against Ukraine would be met with powerful sanctions by the West.

"We have been clear that we would respond with strong economic measures that we have not considered in the past, and that would inflict significant costs on the Russian economy and financial system," she said.

By RFE/RL

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 25 2021 said:
    If the United States and NATO want peace on the Ukraine front, they have to sign binding treaties with Russia that Ukraine will never become a member of NATO. To President Putin, Ukraine joining NATO is “a red line”.

    After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, both US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush promised Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that they won’t bring NATO to the borders of Russia. But the United States reneged on its undertaking to Gorbachev and took advantage of a weakened Russia under Yeltsin and accepted Poland and the Baltic States into NATO.

    Well, Putin isn’t Yeltsin. The last time the United States and the European Union (EU) instigated a coup d’etat in Ukraine with the sole purpose of bringing it to the EU and NATO, Russia annexed the Crimea. How much more territory will Ukraine lose this time if the United States and NATO refused to give Russia the security undertaking it is seeking.

    President Putin has warned NATO countries that deploying weapons or soldiers to Ukraine would cross a “red line” for Russia and trigger a strong response including a potential deployment of Russian missiles targeting Europe.

    It is worth mentioning that the United States signed in 2016 a nuclear treaty with Iran endorsed overwhelmingly by all members of the UN Security Council and two years later it reneged on it under Former President Trump.

    It is equally worth mentioning that Russia has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal and the most powerful armed forces in Europe. So the West is well advised not to provoke Putin.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Lee James on December 27 2021 said:
    It's pretty clear that Russia would prefer a defenseless Ukraine.

    The West might feel kind of bad if Russia does, in fact, invade Ukraine. I think the world mostly thinks that Ukraine wants to be more like Europe, than Russia.

    Putin, how about the Ukraine region staying out of NATO as you have directed,. But would you be OK with the paperwork being pre-prepared and standing by, that if you invade, Ukraine all of a sudden becomes part of NATO?

    Putin, you're a great chess player and you have a lot of Europe over a barrel of oil, literally, but a lot of the Western world is wise to you.

    One of the best things the West can do is leave the purchase of Russia's fossil fuel up to China and India, avoid buying, avoid fueling up Russian bear mischief in Syria and Ukraine and CAR.

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